A migrant advocate for Cambridgeshire has been appointed to support migrants and refugees living in the county.
Cllr Alex Bulat will take up the new role and is part of a wide series of actions intended to make Cambridgeshire a welcoming place for people who have come here from abroad.
The decision to create the post was approved by the county council’s Communities, Social Mobility and Inclusion Committee at its meeting yesterday (Thursday, 23 March).
It follows a Full Council motion from December, put forward by Cllr Alex Bulat and approved by a majority of councillors, which also called for the creation of a county-wide Place of Safety pledge (supporting the right of all to seek services, advice, support and representation without fear of adverse consequences) and to work with partners to support the welfare of destitute individuals or families.
The new Migrant advocate role will include:
• Acting as a political spokesperson for the council on asylum and immigration issues
• Being a single point of contact for councillors on issues relating to asylum and refugeeism
• Being an internal advocate for asylum seekers, refugees and migrants within the council
• Corresponding with political leaders at Cambridgeshire’s district and city councils on matters relating to asylum seekers and refugees.
Support schemes for migrants, such as the Afghan resettlement scheme and Homes for Ukraine, are run at a district level but are co-ordinated by the county council.
Yesterday’s meeting also saw the council commit to working towards a Council of Sanctuary, making Cambridgeshire a “welcoming place of safety for all and proud to offer sanctuary to people fleeing violence and persecution”.
This follows Cambridgeshire Libraries undertaking a process to become an awarded Library of Sanctuary which recognises its role in creating a warm and welcoming environment for people who are new to our communities, including refugees, migrants, people seeking sanctuary and international students. This involves reducing barriers of access to public services and connecting people with reliable information.
Moreover, to tackle ‘hostile environment’ policy on migration, the council will now be writing to district and city councils asking them to consider what information to provide to the Home Office where there is no legal duty to do so where this may impact the lives of refugees and asylum seekers in Cambridgeshire.
But where it is required to do so by law, Cambridgeshire County Council will continue to provide information to the Home Office and will encourage its partners to do the same.
Cllr Bulat said: “Cambridgeshire has a proud record of accommodating and supporting people from all backgrounds, including many who have fled persecution and have come to the UK seeking safety.
“I cannot begin to imagine the horrors that people seeking safety in the UK have seen, and it is only right that we support them as they attempt to rebuild their lives. This can only happen if they do not live with the constant fear of deportation, which is why the county council will do all it can to protect asylum seekers and refugees and will urge our partners to do the same.
“And by creating a new Migrant advocate position and pushing for a Council of Sanctuary recognition, we are showing our commitment as a tolerant, compassionate county.”
Cllr Tom Sanderson, chair of Cambridgeshire County Council’s Communities, Social Mobility and Inclusion Committee, said: “The UK has stepped up in the hour of need for many people fleeing places including Ukraine and Afghanistan. We have seen on our TVs the horrors they have suffered, and we have rightly offered sanctuary and support.
“But there is always more we can do, so I am delighted the committee has agreed to step up the council’s efforts to make Cambridgeshire an even more welcoming place for people of all backgrounds.”
To read the report, which was approved by the committee, visit the council’s website - Council and committee meetings - Cambridgeshire County Council > Meetings (cmis.uk.com). To watch the meeting back, visit the council’s YouTube page.