By Jonathan Ellis, Vice Chair, City of Sanctuary
A few months ago I had the privilege of going out to Khartoum in the Republic of Sudan to work with an NGO to help them to develop an advocacy strategy on migration. I was fascinated by this invitation as Sudan is a country that produces refugees,transit country and is a country of final destination. Yet my sense of fascination was only heightened when I got to meet local people from this NGO. I was interested to hear how strongly they respected and valued the importance of freedom of movement for individuals.
But I was then intrigued to hear the point that they went on to make in conversations: whilst valuing the freedom of movement, they wanted people coming to Sudan to stay in the country. I was amazed to hear this positive response to new migrants coming into the country. They wanted the experience in Sudan to be so good that they would not want to go anywhere else.
They were proud of their country and wanted to extend opportunities to these newcomers. How refreshing to hear these sentiments, and maybe not sentiments that we hear too often in the UK and across Europe.
Of course that is not universally true – I am proud to be associated with the city of sanctuary movement in the UK, whose primary purpose is to offer a warm welcome to refugees. We have seen an explosion of interest in our movement especially since last year with more and more towns and cities stepping up to offer sanctuary to refugees.
But I relished this aspiration from Sudan. How challenging of the stereotypical view in this country those countries from refugee producing regions in Africa and the Middle East should be doing more to respond to the challenges around migration. The truth of the matter is that there is so much already going on by countries in Africa and the Middle East.
The current challenge around migration is a global challenge that requires action around the world. I was inspired to see how people in Sudan see themselves as part of the solution for people forced to flee from their own countries, and I was proud to see the direct connection between their work and our work in the UK building villages, towns and cities of sanctuary.
I crave the debate around global migration to be about our common humanity, and for this debate to be driven by a passionate desire for our fellow human beings to have a chance to achieve the things that we crave in our lives such as love, security and fulfilment. Is that too much to ask for?