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This article is more than 5 years old

Citizens UK demerges with Safe Passage as both organisations set out ambitious new paths to help refugees

Citizens UK announces the establishment of the former project Safe Passage as a new international charity.

Safe Passage started as a project in 2015 after a team of community leaders led by Citizens UK embarked on a journey to understand the social injustice taking place across British shores, in the ‘Calais Jungle’ - a camp of 6000 refugees and children seeking sanctuary and living in appalling conditions in Northern France. The Safe Passage project called for a solution and end to the tragedy of ‘Calais Jungle’ and was formed out of a partnership between community organisers, lawyers and faith leaders.

The work of Safe Passage led to successful court case wins, new national legislation passed (The Dubs Amendment) and the opening of safe and legal routes through which over 1,700 refugee children have travelled safely to sanctuary. Early work grew from community organisers uncovering the horrors and injustice in the camps; to screening the first 250 refugee cases and working with lawyers to win a landmark 2016 legal ruling; to the wider international reunification work underway today.

Using a unique mix of advocacy, legal work and field work, the ground-breaking project has opened routes both to the UK and between nations such as Greece, France, Italy, Austria and Sweden. The project and team’s outstanding work has been recognised and rewarded with the Liberty Human Rights Award, the European Citizens’ Prize and the Sheila McKechnie Campaigner Award.

Through demerging now, we believe Safe Passage will be in the best position to further develop its strategic legal work and cross border activities to open new safe, legal routes to sanctuary for refugee children and adults, alongside continuing its UK resettlement efforts.

Matthew Bolton, Executive Director of Citizens UK, said:
“We are immensely proud of everything the Safe Passage team has achieved in the short time they have been operating. By securing legal routes for some of the most vulnerable children and young people trapped in refugee camps across Europe they are ensuring thousands can escape grave danger and find sanctuary. We wish them all the best in the next phase of their vital work.”

Kaneez Shaid, Chair of Trustees of Citizens UK said:
“Without the intervention of the brilliant team at Safe Passage and the legal and political pressure they brought to bear, there is no doubt far fewer child refugees would have reached the UK, as is their right under family reunion. We’re facing an enormous global refugee crisis and believe it is time to launch a strong, powerful and independent Safe Passage charity into the world. This demerger is not simply a transfer of money, assets and a talented and courageous leadership team - but is rooted in the belief that by creating this new entity, Safe Passage will be enabled to achieve greater social justice impact - globally and at pace.”

Eleanor Harrison, Safe Passage CEO, said:
“We are very grateful to Citizens UK for supporting the Safe Passage project for the first few years of life. This critical support enabled the organisation to test, learn and develop the most effective strategies to open safe, legal passages for those seeking sanctuary. I look forward to continuing our vital work opening routes to resettlement, training legal practitioners and being a powerful advocate for the rights of refugees and responsibilities of Government to offer safe and legal routes to sanctuary.”

Rt Revd Jonathan Clark, Bishop of Croydon, who joins the Safe Passage trustee board from Citizens UK said:
“The refugee crisis has not gone away; many young people are still trapped in terrible conditions across Europe, unable to be reunited with their family members elsewhere. The vital advocacy and support of Safe Passage needs to expand if all of the children who are eligible for resettlement are to reach safety. I’m delighted to join Safe Passage as a trustee and Chair of the Board of Trustees, and continue with them on their successful journey.”

About Citizens UK
Citizens UK is the national home of community organising – a network of over 400 faith groups, education organisations, charities and trade unions that work together for social justice and the good of their communities. Citizens UK members have been campaigning on issues relating to refugees and asylum seekers and providing assistance with integration and welcome for many years and will continue to do so through projects such as Community Sponsorship of Refugees and the work of our community organisers across England and Wales.

For more information see

About Safe Passage
After starting life as a community organising project within Citizens UK, today Safe Passage is an independent charity that combines strategic litigation, case work, community organising and advocacy to open safe, legal routes for those seeking sanctuary. We take a cross-border approach to our work because we believe that only a cross-border solution will bring about lasting, positive change to the human rights situation of refugees in Europe and beyond.

For more information see

Posted on 5 Mar, 2019