Around 150 people welcomed refugees and asylum seekers at a Lancaster and Morecambe City of Sanctuary event held at the Friends Meeting House on Saturday.
As part of Lancaster and Morecambe City of Sanctuary, Quakers organised a Welcome Meal at the Friends Meeting House.
The event was opened by Lancaster mayor Coun Jon Barry, who welcomed the newly arrived asylum seekers, then the choir Dot Crochet and the Raging Harmonies sang, ‘We wish you health, we wish you peace, we wish you joy.’
Fifty people held up signs in Arabic which read ‘Welcome to Lancaster.’ A rainbow banner was also unfurled and the words ‘Escape to Safety’ were pinned to the rainbow.
Mo Kelly, the organiser of the event, said: “Safety is an experience here in the UK which most of us take for granted. We all need to feel safe, and we need to live in a place of safety.
“If we don’t feel safe we cannot flourish. Here in Lancaster, we believe that all people have the right to flourish and to use their gifts and talents. That is our wish for all those who live and seek sanctuary in Lancaster.”
A local Muslim woman described how she and friends had visited the refugee camp at Dunkirk and handed out boots, tents and 500 meals cooked on the site.
She described how a man with no shoes had waited patiently for a pair of boots, and even though they had run out of boots, the man had thanked them for their kindness.
A minute’s silence was then held, in memory of all those suffering in wars and conflicts in Syria and other countries.
Mohammed, one of the Syrian asylum seekers, said: “On behalf of all of us, we thank you, and hope that one day, when we are settled in the UK, we can repay the hospitality shown by the people of Lancaster.”
The Welcome Meal followed the Global Link Escape to Safety exhibition which was open to the public during the day.
Seventy people journeyed through an exhibition as if they were asylum seekers on their way to find safety in the UK. Listening to a soundtrack they followed refugees on their journey through eight small rooms and met actors playing border guard and immigration officials on their way.
Gisela Renolds from Global Link said: “The exhibition is available for hire to secondary schools and other organisations.
“By stepping into the shoes of an asylum seeker in this simulation, participants experience a bit of what it is like to escape their home countries and seek asylum in another country.”