‘Refugees are welcome here’ – Cornwall sends clear message during Refugee Week 2023

Cornwall sent a clear message during this year’s Refugee Week that people fleeing war and persecution to seek sanctuary here will be embraced by our communities.

Supported by the Council and its partners, a host of vibrant events drew in the crowds while Cornwall’s first ever refugee conference on World Refugee Day (June 20) was hailed a huge success by those who took part.

In Saltash, Psyanka Crafts hosted a community feast that they hope will herald a summer packed with activities where refugee families can have creative fun with local people.


Ukrainian Harmony with Newquay Male Voice Choir during Refugee Week


Elsewhere, Ukrainian Harmony, a choir of Ukrainian refugee women, performed with male voice choirs in Newquay, St Austell and Mevagissey. Mevagissey Male Choir even sang in Ukrainian at the opening of Mevagissey Feast Week.

Victoria Gardner, founder of Ukrainian Harmony, said: “To hear these Cornish gentlemen singing in our language to show their respect for Ukrainian culture and compassion for our cause was very emotional.

“I don’t think there could have been a better way to connect Cornwall’s heritage with Ukrainian traditions. Thank you!”

At Princess Pavilion in Falmouth, local charity Falmouth & Penryn Welcomes Refugees staged a multicultural food and dance event with Cornish folk favourite Skillywidden joining in with traditional Dabke dancers for an unforgettable performance.

Dabke means ‘stamping of the feet’ in Arabic and is popular across the Middle East. More than 250 people took part in the gathering timed to mark World Refugee Day, sampling the likes of foul medames, hashweh, makloubeh, taboon and a rich spread of other foods traditional to Palestine, Syria and Iraq.


Palestinian dance troupe Hawiyya ran lively dance performances and workshops in Falmouth


Sinead Hanks, Penryn town councillor and development officer at Falmouth & Penryn Welcomes Refugees, said: “It was brilliant to be able to bring together Palestinian and Cornish folk cultures in this epic footstomp and feast! We’re already thinking of how we can get even more people involved next year.”

While in town the Dabke troupe also ran workshops in Marlborough and Falmouth primary and secondary schools giving over 100 young people first-hand experience of traditional Arabian dance.

Meanwhile, Cornwall’s first refugee conference, named ‘Compassion into Action’, brought together more than 100 guests including leaders and senior managers from the county’s public services and representatives from local refugee support networks.

The aim was to further develop a joint 10-year action plan to support refugees and asylum seekers in Cornwall while sharing expertise and experience.

Led by Cornwall Council leader Cllr Linda Taylor, the conference featured a keynote speech from Larry Bottinick, the Senior Legal Officer from the UK office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

Mr Bottinick complimented Cornwall’s “smart leadership” and praised the integrated and collaborative approach to resettlement that the Council is taking.

The second half of the event focused entirely on education, with school and education leaders sharing best practice and discussing how best to help child refugees deal with trauma.

Cllr Taylor told the conference: “Here in Cornwall we have a proud history of offering sanctuary to people who need it and since 2014 we have been providing a home for refugees fleeing conflict through the various Home Office resettlement schemes.

“It is a sad fact that global forces such as war, famine and climate change mean more people than ever are being displaced from their home countries, which is why we need to further develop our joint action plans to support refugees and asylum seekers in Cornwall.

“We hope this conference will represent the initial step of bringing together everyone currently working with refugees and asylum seekers, as well as those yet to be involved, as we develop a 10-year strategy for Cornwall.”

Working with CHAOS Digital and Kahuna Communications to mark Refugee Week, Cornwall Council released a series of films helping refugees in Cornwall tell their stories. These can be viewed online on the Council's Refugee Resettlement webpage.

The Resettlement Service also published a new factsheet about refugees in Cornwall, ‘Changing Perspectives’ which can be found on the same webpage.

Education and youthwork professionals can access conference materials via resettlement@cornwall.gov.uk 

Press release issued on July 14, 2023.

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