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A group of over 100 migrants from Hong Kong were welcomed to Winchester Cathedral this week and hosted by Bishop Debbie Sellin. They were given a historical tour of the building before taking part in a traditional Christmas carol service, a first experience for many of them. The Hongkongers are all British National Overseas (BNO) status holders, who have come to the UK due to their concerns about the political situation in their country.
The UK opened up an immigration route in January 2021 (reflecting the UK’s historic and moral commitment to people of Hong Kong who chose to retain their ties to the UK by taking up BNO status at the point of Hong Kong’s handover to China in 1997) which gives eligible Hongkongers the opportunity to come to the UK to live, study and work, on a pathway to citizenship.
So far, about 150,000 Hong Kong migrants have come to the UK and 1000 of them to Southampton and surrounding area. Churches in Southampton, including from our Diocese, have worked together to welcome these new arrivals, running four Friendship Festivals and providing regular advice and support in partnership with Citizens Advice in Southampton, all achieved through funding from the Department for Levelling Up, Housing & Communities.
The initiative is part of the national scheme, ‘Welcome Churches’, which over 1000 churches have joined. LoveSouthampton representative and City Life Church Leader, Paul Woodman said..
‘Welcoming people from Hong Kong builds on other work we have done across the city to welcome people who find themselves in a new country. It’s been a joy to meet so many people from Hong Kong this year and to learn more about their culture. We hope to do the same for them and this trip to the Cathedral was a lovely way to share some of our history and traditions. We are proud to live in a City of Sanctuary, and this project sits alongside our enduring commitment to play our part in providing support, dignity and welcome to others.”