Inspiring Approaches

Lewisham (London)Borough of Sanctuary

What is inspiring?

The borough of Lewisham is the first “Borough of Sanctuary” in the UK. It welcomes migrants and refugees by safeguarding their rights. Therefore the borough works with civil society organisations and the private sector. By creating a series of institutional measures that challenge the hostile migration policy in the UK, it helps people seeking asylum rebuild their lives.




How does it operate?

The Lewisham Migration Forum coordinates civil society efforts to make Lewisham a welcoming borough and facilitates the dialogue with the local council. The forum advocates the city council for committing to the principles of solidarity and to the sanctuary policies. As a result the borough offers support and advice to a wide variety of vulnerable migrants and refugees and encourages individuals and organisations to support this commitment by signing the pledge to make Lewisham a Borough of Sanctuary.

Who initiated the project? How?

Most of the measures adopted by the Lewisham borough in support of its sanctuary stance were initiated by civil society organisations and later formally implemented by the borough’s acting council. One of the most important actors articulating the demands is the Lewisham Refugee and Migrant Network, the organisation which chairs the Lewisham Migration Forum.

What is the outcome?

Policies aimed at resettling vulnerable refugee families, providing care to unaccompanied children and the exemption of migrant healthcare charges are examples of the outcomes of the borough’s sanctuary approach. Furthermore, the borough made the voices of migrants heard by incorporating training designed and provided by the parents of migrant families themselves. As a result a mechanism of political participation was established in the city. Thus, the sanctuary policies adopted and implemented in the borough of Lewisham represent a great challenge to the hostile migration policies at the national level.

What is new?

Lewisham celebrated World Refugee Day on 20 June 2023 by welcoming the 100th refugee family in the borough, demonstrating its commitment to a local welcoming policy based on solidarity. There is also a commitment from its council to hosting 100 unaccompanied minor asylum seekers over the next ten years by signing a “Safe Passage’s pledge”.

Homes for Ukraine

Over 200 Ukrainians have been welcomed to Lewisham. The Homes for Ukraine scheme is overarching and coordinates the support offered by the local community, facilitates family reunification with relatives from Ukraine, and provides foster care for minors. The most inspiring measure put in place by the council was this fostering programme for displaced unaccompanied minors: Different fostering types are available, such as emergency, short-term, long-term, and permanent placements, as well as special offers for parents with babies or children with complex behavioural issues. The Lewisham council supports all foster families with attractive allowances and training.

Contact for Homes for Ukraine: Tel. (+44) 0800 148 8586, E-Mail

Contact Fostering programme: Tel. 0800 015 0129, E-Mail

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