Sanctuary, Refuge, Compassion



Supporting refugee women

Refugee Week  - 19 to 25 June 2023

Refugee Week takes place every year in June. Everyone is invited to take part in this world-wide festival of art and culture celebrating the remarkable contributions of refugees. If you take a look at the wonderful website you will find information, ideas and suggestions about how you might get involved, ranging from simply reading a poem to joining a major campaign.

The theme for this year is Compassion, and how we might extend our own circles of compassion, referencing Einstein, who spoke of ….widening our circles of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.

And they have this specially designed poster available for anyone to download.

A terrible irony

It’s horrible to see, in the midst of the positive waves of support for refugees and all the preparations for the festival, that appalling tragedies continue. As Refugee Week approaches we are faced with the awful evidence of the catastrophic sinking of a boat in Greek waters, with huge loss of life. It seems that none of the women or children on the vessel survived – they were crammed into the hold. The women died with their children in their arms, and very disturbing stories are emerging about inadequate rescue efforts and cover-ups by the authorities.


Women who are seeking sanctuary – refugees and asylum seekers – are often survivors of rape, trafficking and torture. This is particularly true of women currently being held in inhumane detention centres.

The organisation Women for Refugee Women believes that all women have the right to safety, dignity and liberty. Their work empowers refugee and asylum seeking women to speak out and become leaders advocating for change. By developing their confidence and skills, women are able to find routes to rebuild their lives.

WRW also run high profile campaigns. ‘Set Her Free’ is a major ongoing initiative opposing the incarceration of women in detention centres. Having worked in partnership with organisations like Mumsnet, the Women’s Institute, Liberty and Amnesty, WRW are currently campaigning with End Detention Now to shut down Derwentside Detention Centre, a women-only institution built in 2021. Derwentside is run by a company called Mitie, which also provides highly profitable services to many big brands, like  Sainsbury’s and IKEA. To mark Refugee Week 2023 WRW are encouraging people to contact the brands and urge them not to use Mitie’s services. There is a very clear toolkit, which you can find here:

Ways to get involved

The Refugee Week website has a page called Simple Acts, packed with bright ideas and practical suggestions. These include:

  • Watch a film. There are many recommendations, including short pieces on the Nowness platform at
  • Read a book. By yourself or with a friend or a book club. From Michael Bond’s ‘Paddington Bear to Abdulrazak Gurnah’s By the Seayou can explore some extraordinary experiences.
  • Listen and Share. Explore music, podcasts and conversations.
  • Send a message. Want to send a message of compassion or hope to a refugee? You can take action online using the Refugee Council website template at
  • Or send a letter to your MP if you want to get something off your chest. You could also download the Tarjimly app for translation and accessing services.
  • Share a dish. Try recipes from one of the new and interesting cookery books produced by refugee chefs and cooks.
  • Act together. Inspired by Jo Cox, join The Great Walk Together. Information on the Refugee Week website.
  • Grow your compassion. Listen actively, volunteer, spend time with nature, experience compassion for someone very different to yourself.
  • Use your platform. Your social media can be used to express solidarity and compassion. @RefugeeWeek #RefugeeWeek #CompassionIntoAction #SimpleActs
  • Join the movement. Sponsor a refugee family, explore the City of Sanctuary movement, see what’s happening in your local area, join a campaign.

On June 28th Community Action MK is hosting a networking event with a focus on supporting the local refugee communities. See below for information and registration details.

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