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City of Sanctuary

The Faculty of Health Studies has received a Sanctuary in Health award for its work with asylum seekers and refugees

The Faculty was presented with the national award on Monday 15 June 2015, at the Bradford City of Sanctuary Refugee week launch, and is the first university department in the UK to receive such an award.

The award is presented to health organisations that demonstrate they are welcoming and inclusive to asylum seekers and refugees.

The Faculty started working towards the award in 2012 when a number of refugee and asylum seeking women joined the service user group and began to participate in the interviewing of prospective health care students. They would also teach students about their experiences of asylum, assess students’ communication skills within exams and take part in research.

The Faculty has also engaged with refugee related organisations, hosting conferences and other events

Staff have become involved with refugee related research and over 100 staff have received training around asylum issues. There is also a system in place for passing on donations of clothing, toys and baby equipment to asylum seekers who have just arrived in the UK.


It is difficult to imagine any application for a Stream of Sanctuary award that has been more comprehensively evidenced than this one, which provides a model for others to follow in terms of meaningful engagement with and support for asylum seekers and refugees.

Quote from the appraisal of the FoHS application
Faculty of Health Studies Sanctuary in Health Award appraisal

The full report on our award application

Download Faculty of Health Studies Sanctuary in Health Award appraisal
(PDF, 37KB)


The Faculty has developed a system of passing on donations of clothing, toys, baby equipment and household goods to Wakefield City of Sanctuary where they are sorted and passed on to asylum seekers and refugees.

In particular, they are always desperately in need of clothing for both adults and children who frequently arrived in the UK with only the clothes they are wearing. Warm clothes, coats and shoes are needed in the Winter as people flee their home country with nothing and often arrive in Wakefield in summer clothes and flip flops.

If you have anything that you would like to donate please contact Mel Cooper ( or 07827 981927) and she will advise you where there are local collections. Any contribution would be gratefully received.

I will never forget the journeys of the women we were lucky enough to be in the company of, or wiping away tears as unimaginable experiences were recited (with laughter and smiles!) by figures of utter strength and determination.

I left the session feeling awe for those who can find the strength required to carry on through such desperate times, and determination to never again show allegiance to a system which only serves to prolong them.

Student feedback on a session with refugee women

Get Involved

Please contact Mel Cooper or Jan Wilcock to discuss the City of Sanctuary movement, and what you can do to get involved.

Alternatively, please visit the City of Sanctuary website to find out more. The Faculty is also involved with the Maternity Stream of the City of Sanctuary.

News and Event Reports

Striving for Excellence in Maternity Care in Bradford - conference report

A focus on asylum seeking and refugee women

Source - A report from Shelley Franklin-King, Maternity Stream Project Manger.

Midwives, health professionals, student nurses and midwives, refugee organisations and other charities from Bradford and beyond attended the conference held at the University of Bradford on 6th November 2014 to learn more about the needs and experiences of pregnant and postnatal asylum seeking and refugee women.

With over 100 delegates representing more than 20 different organisations, delegates had a rare opportunity to network with statutory and non-statutory services and share both common concerns and good practice.

Following an introduction about the Maternity stream and how services can work towards the Services of Sanctuary Award, Tansy Kerenza from Bradford Action for Refugees (BAFR) set the context of support available in Bradford. Particularly notable, is the current gap in support due to the loss of the NCT scheme, ‘Birth and Beyond’.

The conference was framed by the premiere film showing of “Childbirth in the UK, stories from refugees” by the Maternity Stream. The film focuses of on different challenges faced by many asylum seeking and refugee women. First hand accounts of the physical, emotional and cultural difficulties that women face are heart-wrenching, enlightening and sometimes simply unbelievable.

Childbirth in the UK, stories from refugees from City of Sanctuary on Vimeo.

Shown in two halves the subjects raised in the film including the asylum system, entitlements, FGMHIV and mental were followed up with presentations.

The highlight of the conference for many was the talk given by, Sara, a refugee with two sons. Sara spoke about her different birth experiences, the first just going through standard care and the second very positive experience with the specialist Haamla team in Leeds who work with minority ethnic communities, including asylum seekers and refugees. Not only did Sara address the conference with eloquence, confidence and spirit, but she did it with her 10 month old son over her shoulder and managed to get him to sleep at the same time!

Stalls from local organisations including, Bradford City of Sanctuary and Peacemakers international brought colour to the Great Hall and a team from Community Health Maps attended to encourage services to register their organisations on the online map to aid effective and efficient referral between maternity care providers and community organisations.

The conference received very positive feedback and went ‘wild’ on twitter. One delegate left saying that the conference “has opened my eyes! I didn’t know about all this until now and I look forward to working with you in the future”.

Personally, I left feeling both overwhelmed by the massive amount of change that still needs to happen to ensure that asylum seeking and refugee women get the care and tenderness they need, yet heartened by the enthusiasm and sense of determination of the delegates. I look forward to the follow up work in Bradford and hope that tangible positive changes are just around the corner.

This was the first conference of it’s kind and we hope to facilitate similar events throughout the Yorkshire and Humber district.

The University of Bradford Sponsors the City's First School of Sanctuary Award

The first Bradford School of Sanctuary award was presented to Horton Park Primary School on Monday 16 June 2014.

The school is the first in the city to achieve ‘School of Sanctuary’ status, an initiative organised UK-wide by Streams of Sanctuary and supported locally by the University of Bradford’s Faculty of Health Studies.

A School of Sanctuary helps its students, staff and wider community understand what it means to be seeking sanctuary, extends a welcome to everyone as equal, valued members of the school community, and shares their vision and achievements with others.

School of Sanctuary Certificate

With the help of the University of Bradford and its partners; Bradford City of Sanctuary, Bradford Action for Refugees (BAfR), and The Zephaniah Trust, the scheme has been running in the city since September 2012.

Horton Park Primary School received book vouchers from the University of Bradford to spend on books about asylum seekers and refugees for their school library.

University of Bradford lecturer and National Trustee for the City of Sanctuary Dr Melanie Cooper said: “I’m delighted that Horton Park Primary School is the first of hopefully many schools in the city to be awarded Bradford School of Sanctuary status.

As part of Refugee Week, Sanctuary in Schools have organised a mixed-media exhibition in the Fabric Gallery in Bradford city centre. Running to Saturday 21 June 2014, the exhibition will be open every day from 11am to 5pm, with some evening opening.

In addition to work from schools and adult artists, there will be a small display about child refugees from the Spanish Civil War, in the 1930s, who found shelter in the Bradford area. There will also be photographs of a recent visit to Hutton Roof by a group of asylum seekers and refugees.

More information is available from

Sanctuary Seekers and Health Care Tackling inequalities in access and outcomes - Event Report

On Friday 20th September 2013, City of Sanctuary together with University of Bradford held the first of its kind conference bringing together over 100 people including NHS commissioning officers, a wide range of health practitioners and voluntary sector workers to discuss key issues in overcoming health inequalities for sanctuary seekers.

City of Sanctuary Trustee, Jonathan Ellis (also Head of Policy, Research and Advocacy British Red Cross) began the day by putting the issues into context with a speech to inspire ambassadors for sanctuary seekers. Dr Mel Cooper, School of Health Studies Lecturer presented a research based model for health practitioners to understand the service user within the global context. This was based on an inclusive model for midwifery education to address the needs of recently arrived migrant women in the UK and drew our attention to the various factors at the micro, macro and global levels that impact on health needs. Permjeet Dhoot from the NHSEquality and Health Inequalities Team described the appalling levels of inequality in outcomes for sanctuary seekers. She reminded delegates of the higher maternal mortality rates, depression and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder in this vulnerable group and the NHS duty of care expressed in legislation including the Human Rights and Equality Acts and the need for a humane, person centred and holistic approach to health care. 

A choice of morning and afternoon workshops covered a range of topics including maternity and women’s health, good practice in interpreting services, mental health, infectious diseases, migrant access to health services, models of primary care for vulnerable migrants, innovation in the voluntary sector, needs and experiences of unaccompanied sanctuary seeking children, and supporting sanctuary seeking health care professionals to practice in the UK.

Key conference highlights were the valued contributions by sanctuary seekers themselves who told their stories both in the main sessions and at each workshop. Powerful tales that raised awareness of who sanctuary seekers really are, stories that should influence policy and the design and delivery of services to be more accessible and effective. Stories that drew attention to unnecessary pain and suffering; about mental health, pregnancy and birth, diabetes and epilepsy, surgery and cancer, medication and neglect, misunderstandings and even death. In addition Ice and Fire Theatre Company read two harrowing testimonies from Turkish born Kinan and Zimbabwean Thelma putting health issues into the everyday reality of dispersal, poverty, criminalisation and isolation suffered by sanctuary seekers. All these stories were hugely appreciated by delegates and conference organisers and provided real insights into the issues to be addressed.

Bill McCarthy National Director of Policy, NHS England summed up the conference at the end highlighting the need for health practitioners to learn and to listen “If you don’t understand the group you are trying to help … you need to hear from the experts in that group” and the importance of creative collaboration across services to find solutions by meeting the whole person’s needs. Strategic partnerships between the public, voluntary and NHS sectors and Health and Wellbeing Boards may be key to progress in this area. The end of day panel included an asylum seeker and a consultant and answered a range of questions raised by workshop groups addressing some outstanding issues. Delegates left with a variety of resources, new contacts and an enthusiasm to take the message back to their workplaces.
Feedback from participants included; “Greatly exceeded my expectations. Valuable information.”, “Made excellent contacts” and “A very informative and engaging event”.

A suggestion to set up a discussion forum to carry on the excellent learning provided by the day was taken up by City of Sanctuary. Anyone interested in engaging in discussion, sharing of resources and good practice can join in by subscribing to the “Sanctuary Seekers and Health Care” list at

Colleen Molloy
“A Brilliant day” – Participant