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Growing a culture of welcome for refugees and asylum seekers

Three national charities, Social Farms & Gardens (SF&G), City of Sanctuary and the Permaculture Association, are coming together on November 17th at Stepney City Farm to launch a new collection of resources aimed at helping the UK’s community growing spaces welcome sanctuary seekers, including refugees and asylum seekers.

The partnership are now seeking funding to deliver training to support community growing spaces to develop programmes to engage sanctuary seekers.

The resource pack, report and series of case studies are designed to support the creation of a network of green spaces with a culture of welcome, in which sanctuary seekers feel safe and appreciated as valued contributors and co-creators of projects across the UK.

The pack has been created by a partnership project between the three organisations called Gardens of Sanctuary, which aims to address the refugee crisis by helping the UK’s network of community growing spaces create a culture of welcome for sanctuary seekers. 

People who have fled violence and persecution and sought sanctuary are some of the most marginalised in the UK. Studies show that they are 5 times more likely to experience poor mental health, and 10 times more likely to suffer with PTSD, yet compared to the general population they are significantly less likely to receive support for these conditions. The experience of being an asylum seeker in the UK can also be highly stressful and isolating, with periods of destitution not uncommon while people wait, sometimes for several years, for the outcome of their claim.

There are now more than a thousand community growing spaces in the UK, ranging from small allotment and permaculture plots to large care farms and city farms, all of which create opportunities for people to get outdoors, get active, and use land-based activities to transform and connect their communities. A growing number of scientific studies show that the outcomes of community growing include improved mental health, physical health and community integration for those involved. There are already examples of this happening to great effect, and now the Gardens of Sanctuary partnership want more sanctuary seekers to feel able to get involved in community growing where they live.

Chris Blythe from SF&G said: “Our research shows that the vast majority of our members care deeply about the refugee crisis and would like to welcome more sanctuary seekers to their gardens and projects, but don’t necessarily know the best way to reach out to them.”

“The Gardens of Sanctuary resources will help groups embed the principles of sanctuary into their space. We want to ensure people of all ages, abilities, faiths and backgrounds can come together in our cities, towns and villages to achieve great things, and this is a great step towards that aim.”

Ben Margolis from City of Sanctuary said: “People seeking sanctuary in the UK have often experienced huge amounts of trauma and there are significant barriers to them becoming actively involved in their communities. Community gardens have the potential to offer vital opportunities for volunteering, learning and sharing skills and enabling people to meet and connect with others in their local area.”

Andy Goldring from the Permaculture Association said “This is going to be a hugely useful resource for our members. Projects all across the UK engage their communities in really creative ways, but often struggle to include everyone. This resource pack provides detailed advice and successful case studies that will give them the confidence they need to support refugees and asylum seekers in their activities.”







Date: For Immediate Release



Growing a culture of welcome for refugees and asylum seekers




Sophie Antonelli, Gardens of Sanctuary Worker – [email protected] telephone – 07834815943


Ben Margolis, South East, Eastern and Central Regional Coordinator – [email protected] telephone – 07954043674

Social Farms & Gardens

Social Farms & Gardens was formed on April 1st, 2018 by the merger of the Federation of City Farms and Community Gardens and Care Farming UK, bringing together two organisations, which have always worked closely together, sometimes overlapping though always complementary.

Social Farms & Gardens supports a spectrum of initiatives, of all shapes and sizes, unified by one vision – the use of nature-based activities as a catalyst to transform lives.  Our member projects and activities offer essential support for marginalised communities, and for individuals, some with a defined need, leading to enormous social, therapeutic and educational benefits. 

Modern life creates many deep-rooted, complex problems for society, leaving individuals and communities feeling frustrated, isolated and often worthless. These issues affect the well-being of both people and places. At Social Farms & Gardens, we’re proud to support thousands of grass roots projects across the UK that have helped millions of people. They use farming and gardening as a way to transform lives and connect people, putting pride back into communities and improving health and well-being. Our job is to support the dedicated heroes who run these projects, from tiny fruit and veg plots on urban housing estates to large-scale rural care farms. We provide key advice, training and information. We spread the word about the incredible work they do. We give them a united voice to lobby Government, business and funders. Working together, we want to ensure people of all ages, abilities, faiths and backgrounds can come together in our cities, towns and villages to achieve great things.

City of Sanctuary

City of Sanctuary holds the vision that our nations will be welcoming places of safety for all and proud to offer sanctuary to people fleeing violence and persecution.

City of Sanctuary began in October 2005 in Sheffield. In September 2007, with the support of the City Council and over 70 local community organisations, Sheffield became the UK’s first ‘City of Sanctuary’ – a city that takes pride in the welcome it offers to people in need of safety.

Since then, City of Sanctuary UK, the umbrella organisation, has supported the development of a network of groups, which includes villages, towns, cities and regions across the UK, and others engaged in Streams of SanctuarySanctuary Awards and activities intended to welcome people seeking sanctuary.

Whilst we are a movement in our own right City of Sanctuary also contributes towards wider movement building through partnership work and supporting advocacy and campaigning initiatives. City of Sanctuary UK enjoys close partnerships with all the major refugee organisations and we are committed to working with them to build a united voice to advocate for people seeking sanctuary in our nations and worldwide.

Permaculture Association

We support our members and others in the permaculture network to design thriving communities across Britain by applying permaculture ethics and principles, and to contribute to permaculture worldwide.

Whether you are involved in gardening, farming, planning, building homes, economic regeneration, or business, using permaculture design empowers you to make the right choices for a sustainable future.

By putting ethics first and using natural systems as a model, there are simple and innovative ways to live fairly and sustainably now and in the future.


Social Farms & Gardens is the result of a merger between the Federation of City Farms and Community Gardens (FCFCG) and Care Farming UK. We have joined together so we can better support and represent the farmers, gardeners and growers who run life-changing projects in our urban and rural communities.

The GreenHouse, Hereford Street, Bristol BS3 4NA Tel: 0117 9231 800
Company No: 2011023; Charity No: 294494 (England & Wales) SC039440 (Scotland)

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