Building Sanctuaries in Wandsworth

How the Home Community Café is countering a hostile environment

Home Community Cafe volunteers celebrate Sanctuary status

The Home Community Cafe at St. Andrew’s on Garratt Lane has been awarded sanctuary status, which is the first sanctuary in the Wandsworth borough. During Refugee Week, an event all about healing and wellbeing, we shone a light on how the UK is working towards creating a more welcoming and supportive community, city by city, for those forced to flee their homes and in search for a better and safer life.

City of Sanctuary UK coordinates, motivates and takes effective measures to grow this network of welcome, working closely with individuals, organisations and groups to encourage inclusion and solidarity. They collaborate with and support local councils, schools, universities as well as libraries, theatres and cafes that go above and beyond to help people seeking sanctuary. They recognise and celebrate such communities, welcoming refugees and asylum seekers, and award them Sanctuary status. Just like the Home Community Cafe, they promise the creation of a better and brighter future to these groups.

It has now been 10 years since the then Home Secretary, Theresa May, introduced the ‘Hostile Immigration Environment’ in 2012, and actions by the Government have only worsened following the concept. This set of policies aims to make life in the UK difficult for people seeking refuge and asylum, and unable to show sufficient paperwork.

With the UK Government’s Hostile Environment immigration policies having created several inequalities and countless barriers, preventing migrant people from accessing fundamental services, communities like the Home Community Cafe are making strong efforts to make people seeking sanctuary feel welcome and supported.

Since 2017, the Home Community Cafe has created a welcoming space, bringing people together with food, craft workshops and other fun activities, and encouraging inclusion through wholesome events. The cafe frequently hosts non-profit events, using any donations made to the organisation for funding projects within the community. For example, they have been working closely with JustShelter, an action group that actively helps asylum seekers, to host events that showcase the food and culture of those who have been displaced from their countries of origin.

The Home Community Cafe welcomes individuals from all walks of life though, from supporting mums suffering from Postnatal depression to people dealing with loneliness as a cause of the 2020 pandemic.

With their great generosity and kindness, helping different kinds of communities, feeding families and creating a homely environment, which is reflected in their name, the Home Cafe has been awarded Sanctuary. With this title they intend to promote their cafe, helping those in need and networking with like-minded groups to spread the message.

They partnered with us, Wandsworth Welcomes Refugees, to host during Refugee Week, on 23 June, a yoga and meditation fundraiser event, which will be taught by yoga teacher Belu.

The theme of this year’s Refugee Week was ‘healing’, which consisted of a relaxing evening of wellbeing, with plenty of food and drinks as well as a talk about the work of C4CWimbledon.

Each and everyone’s presence was highly appreciated, because only as a collective community can we break the current misconceptions of migration and fight against the hostile immigration policies imposed by the Government. With this event, we want to welcome people seeking sanctuary, in the promise of a better and brighter future for them, creating a country of acceptance, empathy and equality.

Pia Subramaniam


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July 6, 2022