Sheffield is celebrating 10 years of offering protection to some of the world’s most vulnerable refugees.

Sheffield was the first city in the UK to offer safe haven to refugees resettled under the UN’s Gateway Protection Programme with the first group arriving from Liberia on 19 March 2004.

The city has since offered places to people fleeing states well known for conflict or poor human rights records, including Somalia, Myanmar, Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo and will be marking the decade.

Representatives from across the city will be marking the milestone at the ‘Celebrating Gateway’s 10th Anniversary’ event on Wednesday, 19 March 2014 at Highfield Community Space, London Road, Sheffield.

Councillor Mazher Iqbal, Cabinet Member for Communities and Inclusion at Sheffield City Council, said:

“I cannot imagine what it’s like for someone who has had to flee their country, often leaving their family, friends and everything they own behind. In the gateway Protection Programme’s 10 year history we have heard some truly harrowing stories about people’s fight for survival.

I’m really proud of the fact Sheffield was the first City of Sanctuary and that we have continued to show our support for people from across the world who need it the most. The fact we can welcome people who have experienced such tragedy and upheaval and help them rebuild their lives, providing them with a sense of belonging, is fantastic and I’m grateful that we can do that in Sheffield.”

Refugee resettlement involves the selection and transfer of refugees from the country they have fled to, often a country neighbouring their home state, to a third country which has agreed to admit them as refugees.

Many resettled refugees have previously lived in refugee camps for years – some children are even born there and it is extremely unlikely that they will ever be able to return home. A resettlement place is their only chance to rebuild their lives in safety.

Under the current system, the UK accepts up to 750 refugees from around the world every year for resettlement, with around 90 being hosted in Sheffield. Sheffield City Council and the Refugee Council work closely together to help people overcome trauma and settle into their new lives.

Refugee Council Resettlement Manager Sarah Rollin praised Sheffield’s reputation as a welcoming City of Sanctuary. She said:

“Sheffield has a long tradition of protecting and welcoming refugees. The people of Sheffield should feel proud that over the past decade they have helped transform hundreds of refugees’ lives through every day acts of kindness.

Refugees have fled terrible atrocities, including war, torture and rape. A resettlement place offers them a vital lifeline to build so they can build their lives in safety. For some children, a resettlement place in Sheffield will mean their first ever night’s sleep on a mattress in a real bed; access to running water and simply, the hope of a better future.”

Councillor Iqbal will formally welcome guests to the celebration event at Highfield Community Space alongside Refugee Council Chief Executive, Maurice Wren.

The event will also include performances by refugees originally from Burma, Bhutan, the Congo and Sudan. Representatives from the Home Office, the Refugee Council, the UN Refugee Agency and the SHARE Project will also attend the event.