Calderdale Council staff and Councillors have united in support of national Refugee Week (June 19-25), actively participating in various events to showcase solidarity with refugees and people seeking sanctuary. The week-long celebration, encompassing arts, culture, sports, and education, aims to honour the contributions, resilience, and creativity of refugees and asylum seekers.

This year’s Refugee Week theme, compassion, resonates deeply with Calderdale, which boasts a long-standing history of extending kindness and exhibiting a strong sense of community spirit towards those fleeing war and persecution. Notably, the borough has recently demonstrated remarkable compassion by offering aid to individuals seeking safety from the conflicts in Ukraine, Syria, and Afghanistan.

The official launch of Refugee Week took place at the Council’s Central Library in Halifax on Monday, June 19. The event, organised by Calderdale Valley of Sanctuary and inaugurated by the Mayor of Calderdale, attracted a diverse audience, including individuals currently residing in Calderdale and seeking sanctuary. The attendees were captivated by the remarkable and poignant account of Gulwali Passarlay, who shared his journey to the UK from Afghanistan as a 12-year-old boy escaping the Taliban. Gulwali’s powerful book, titled ‘The Lightless Sky,’ has shed light on his quest for sanctuary, and his personal experiences and commitment to refugee rights have positioned him as an inspiring figure within the global community.

During the event, Gulwali presented the Council’s Libraries Service with the prestigious Library of Sanctuary Award. This accolade, bestowed by Calderdale Valley of Sanctuary and City of Sanctuary UK, acknowledges the libraries’ exceptional dedication to providing support and fostering inclusivity for refugees and asylum seekers. It serves as a testament to the libraries’ outstanding efforts in displaying solidarity and extending a warm welcome to those seeking sanctuary and refuge. The award also highlights the positive contributions made by refugees to society and emphasises the numerous benefits of embracing a culture of inclusion.

Additionally, the Council actively supported a Refugee Week event hosted by St Augustine’s Centre, based in Halifax, and the Mytholmroyd company Sand In Your Eye. Council staff members and Councillor Jenny Lynn, the Cabinet Member for Public Services and Communities, joined local communities to create a colossal piece of temporary land art at Savile Park, Halifax, on Thursday, June 15. Collaborating in teams, participants spray-painted birds on the grass, symbolising compassion, freedom, and migration. Moreover, individuals crafted their own paper birds, which were displayed as a flock at Artworks Halifax throughout Refugee Week.

A video capturing Councillor Lynn’s involvement in the creation of the land art at Savile Park can be found online.

Expressing her pride in Calderdale’s support for Refugee Week, Councillor Jenny Lynn, Calderdale Council’s Cabinet Member for Public Services and Communities, stated, “Both as a Council and alongside our communities and partner organisations, we are genuinely proud to endorse Refugee Week in Calderdale. As a Valley of Sanctuary, we welcome refugees and asylum seekers, striving to establish Calderdale as a safe and inclusive haven for all individuals.”

Lynn further emphasised the celebration of the talents and diversity that refugees and asylum seekers bring to Calderdale, actively contributing to its remarkable character. With a focus on reducing inequalities, Calderdale aims to fulfill its Vision 2024, envisioning a place where everyone, regardless of their background, can achieve their full potential.

Receiving the Library of Sanctuary Award represents the Council’s resolute commitment to offering secure, inclusive, and accessible spaces for all individuals. Lynn expressed her immense pride in the libraries staff, commending their collaboration with Calderdale Valley of Sanctuary and other organisations to ensure that people seeking sanctuary receive the vital support they require.