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Cork launches plan to better integrate refugees, asylum seekers and migrants

Cork will be the latest area to become a so-called place of sanctuary – making it part of a wider national, and indeed international, movement.

Citadel, a band made up of residents of Kinsale Road Direct Provision Centre, performed at the launch last night (file photo).
Citadel, a band made up of residents of Kinsale Road Direct Provision Centre, performed at the launch last night (file photo).
Image: Citadel

PLANS DETAILING HOW Cork city aims to better integrate and support refugees, asylum seekers and migrants have been published.

The Cork City of Sanctuary Strategic Plan of Action 2018-2020 was launched at an event in the city last night.

A working group consisting of representatives from community organisations, schools, colleges, businesses, Cork City Council and other stakeholders developed the plan over the last 18 months.

Cork will be the latest area to become a so-called place of sanctuary – making it part of a wider national, and indeed international, movement.

Places of Sanctuary Ireland is a network of groups in towns, cities and local communities which share the objective of promoting the integration, inclusion and welfare of refugees, asylum seekers and vulnerable migrants.

It does so by encouraging every sector of society to make a practical commitment to becoming places of welcome and safety.

The Cork City of Sanctuary movement began in summer 2017 and the working group was formed the following September. The group developed its strategic plan from September 2018 to January 2019.

Maria Minguella of Cork City Council’s Social Inclusion Unit has coordinated the project to date. She said there has been “incredible” work and collaboration from stakeholders.

“Everyone involved is dedicated to making our city more welcoming and inclusive of diversity,” she said.

Speaking to TheJournal.ie ahead of the launch, Minguella said: “In Cork City, like a lot of places in Ireland, there are gaps in the services provided in relation to new communities.

Because of the recession, places got hit in terms of funding, integration work in Ireland was one of them.

She said community groups on the ground have shown there is “hunger for something to happen”, saying the process has “created a spirit of collaboration” and a “more joined-up approach” between various groups.

The strategic plan was developed after consultation with relevant groups such as migrants and people living in Direct Provision centres. 

“The model itself is empowering to community groups and asylum seekers, it gives them a chance to be involved with the city and be a part of it,” Minguella said.

cork Source: Cork City of Sanctuary

As organisations roll out their own initiatives as part of the wider plan, research will be undertaken to identify which areas should be focused on.

Scholarships 

The plan notes that the steering committee will “work towards resourcing and building a partnership model that will make diversity, social inclusion and integration a fundamental part of Cork City’s community development policy, by creating the human and capital resources that will allow for the coordination of Cork City of Sanctuary Movement and for it to be a sustainable initiative”.

New communities will continue to become engaged through continued implementation of practical engagement measures including promoting empowerment, new community leadership, advocacy, and integration.

Any club, artist, shop, business, educational body, public service provider or community group can commit to implementing an initiative as part of the movement.

University College Cork is a University of Sanctuary and Cork Institute of Technology also offers scholarships to asylum seekers and refugees, for example.

David Stanton, Minister of State for Equality, Immigration and Integration, was the keynote speaker at the launch of the plan in Millennium Hall last night. 

The broad range of areas of action in this plan should provide the opportunity and encouragement for all organisations and community groups to be able to make a positive contribution.

“In line with the national Migrant Integration Strategy, we are determined that communities should be empowered in making integration a success,” Stanton said. 

Also speaking at the launch, Lord Mayor Councillor Mick Finn said Cork is a “diverse, inclusive city”.

“It will take cooperation from all facets of society – civic, political, health, educational, cultural, sporting and business – to make the city work for all our communities,” Finn stated.

More information about Cork City of Sanctuary can be read here.

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Órla Ryan

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