Sunderland had a population of 275,506 at the time of the 2011 census, and had experienced the fourth highest rate of population decline in the UK since 2001, a -3.2% fall in population. Sunderland has a heritage in shipbuilding, coalmining and glass-making. Today some manufacturing and industry continues in the form of a large Nissan car factory, but many industrial firms have relocated. In the wake of deindustrialisation, Sunderland City Council sought to regenerate various parts of the city to attract service sector employers and new residents, most notably along the riverside. Sunderland’s population is less diverse than the UK as a whole, with 4% of residents coming from non-White ethnic groups in 2011 and 4.1% of the population being born outside the UK.
Sunderland supports a smaller asylum population than the other dispersal cities studied here, being home to 755 asylum seekers at the end of 2003 and just 129 at the end of 2012. This fall in numbers again reflects national trends in falling asylum applications and subsequent falls in numbers supported under Section 95. As such, the city’s share of the national dispersal population has remained relatively stable across this time period, being 0.9% at the end of 2003 and 0.6% at the end of 2012. Despite these relatively small dispersal numbers, the city has a number of asylum seeker and refugee community integration projects, drop-in sessions and volunteering projects. Whilst the onset of dispersal initially led to tensions in the city, including the racially motivated murder of Tayman Bahmani, an Iranian asylum seeker, in 2002, the city has established a range of projects to provide links between communities in the city, most notably through high profile Refugee Week events and an emerging City of Sanctuary group.