CHESHIRE West and Chester councillors have unanimously backed plans to become a 'borough of sanctuary' for refugees and asylum seekers.

The motion - which achieved cross party support – was brought by Labour councillor Richard Beacham and seconded by Liberal Democrat Paul Roberts at a virtual meeting of Full Council last night (Thursday).

While the title does not impact the numbers of refugees and asylum seekers the borough will be expected to take in, it would see it become part of the City of Sanctuary network – a list of towns, boroughs and cities that have voiced their commitment towards becoming a safe place for those fleeing violence and persecution.

Cllr Beacham told the virtual meeting: “The Afghan situation recently has probably put into sharp focus the need to support those who supported us, they’ve subsequently found themselves in a situation where their lives and the lives of their families are now at risk.”

He added: “Tonight’s motion is not about making new pledges for resettlement programmes, it’s more about recognising the work that is being done locally to bring together various voluntary and statutory organisations.

“It’s to ensure that the support is joined up, so that we’re working together so that sanctuary is not just about somewhere to stay.”

Speaking in support the proposals, Jane Brooke, Canon of Chester Cathedral, told members: “By becoming a borough of sanctuary, that’s an endorsement of all those groups working locally on the ground to support refugees and asylum seekers.”

Conservative Cllr Mike Baynham, added: “The right to seek asylum from persecution – whether it be religious or political – is a right, and that right is a milestone in international human rights law.”

He added: “I believe that our communities treat asylum seekers with respect and have always welcomed those who have a legal right to remain.”