Leader’s statement on the refugee crisis
I have now held two meetings of councils, health and other local agencies to consider our response. We have written to the SE Strategic Partnership for Migration for the Home Office, seeking a scoping meeting at the earliest opportunity.
From a county council perspective, our priority is safeguarding children and providing support to families in need. We currently have around 50 unaccompanied asylum seeker children plus around 30 young people who are care leavers to whom the council still has responsibilities. This is more than double the number we had last year. Clearly the prime minster is right when he says helping orphaned and vulnerable children is the priority.
The children’s services team is in the process of making sure we can respond to more arriving in the county. It is both our legal and moral duty to make sure that refugee children are looked after and kept safe, and the county council will always meet those duties.
I fully support the government’s stance on the refugee crisis – we need an urgent humanitarian response, while keeping in mind the need for long-term solutions that reduce incentives for people to leave their country. We need to help people in danger, but avoid doing anything that encourages more people to make the dangerous journey towards Europe.
I know there are many strong and active community and faith groups, as well as many individuals, in Oxfordshire who also may want to be part of the county-wide response. If you would like to help, there are several groups registering volunteers and offers help – please do get in touch with them.
Councillor Ian Hudspeth
Leader, Oxfordshire County Council
How you can help
There are a number of local charities registering interest and support for refugees:
- Asylum Welcome helps asylum seekers, refugees and detainees in Oxfordshire (including unaccompanied children) with English lessons, food, hardship payments, advice on housing, jobs, and the asylum system and more.
- Volunteer or fundraise for the Oxfordshire-wide charity Refugee Resource – which promotes the wellbeing of refugees and asylum seekers.
- Oxford City of Sanctuary is asking for people to become hosts and freely offer a room or more in their house for the use of a destitute sanctuary seeker on a temporary basis.
- Emmaus Oxford is looking for donations of essential goods, donations or people's time and vehicles for Operation Calais. Convoys are heading to France on 27 September and sorting sessions are taking place on 25 and 26 September.