National Refugee Week marked in Oxfordshire

Services being provided in Oxford to help asylum seekers were highlighted to council leaders and others on Saturday (18 June) to mark the start of National Refugee Week (18 - 25 June).

Oxfordshire County Council Leader Councillor Liz Leffman and Chair Councillor Susanna Pressel took part in events organised by city-based Asylum Welcome who offer information, advice and practical support to asylum seekers, refugees and vulnerable migrants living in Oxfordshire.

Asylum Welcome organised walks around the city that were guided and led by refugees and asylum seekers who introduced and described some of the core services, locations and community groups that are key for people seeking asylum and building new lives in Oxfordshire, including Refugee Resource, Sanctuary Hosting, Oxford Mutual Aid, Jacari and Refugee Education UK.

Cllr Leffman said: “The subject of refugees has been high up everyone’s agenda over the past 12 months given events in Ukraine and Afghanistan. We were able to see for ourselves how adults, young people and families are helped to feel safe, respected and understood as members of our local communities.

“We will continue to work with Asylum Welcome as we all work to provide support to newcomers who have often left behind their homeland in traumatic circumstances. Hearing at first hand from people who have come to our county as refugees about the support they have received was inspiring and moving.”

Since March, partners across Oxfordshire – including the county council, district and city council, health partners, voluntary and community organisations, such as Asylum Welcome – have been working together to respond to the government’s Homes for Ukraine scheme and deliver the support that sponsors and guests need.

This has included initial checks and visits to sponsors’ homes, benefits advice and support payments for guests and ‘thank you’ payments for sponsors and finding school and early years placements. Help has also included regular communications direct to sponsors and guests issuing guidance and signposting to any support available.

Cllr Pressel added: “We have all been touched by the way people in Oxfordshire have come together to support Ukrainians in their time of need, as well as the Afghan refugees before them and many other asylum seekers from other countries.

“We were inspired by the work of Asylum Welcome and the rapid response and adaptability of partner organisations in working with them. 

“We know that local communities across Oxfordshire are providing fantastic local services for our Ukrainian guests, for example community-led English lessons, access to clothing, toys and food, community support groups and more. The county council’s Oxfordshire Family Information Service (FIS) would like to provide local information for both Ukrainian guests and their host families on its directory webpages about events, activities and support services available to them.

“If anyone is aware of or involved with any local activity, please email Fis.enquiries@oxfordshire.gov.uk with the details. We can then work on putting this information online.”

Residents can access countywide information on the Homes for Ukraine scheme at oxfordshire.gov.uk/ukraine or can use the helpline and email below.

  • Oxfordshire Ukraine helpline: +44 1865 966444 / 01865 966 444 (opening hours: 8.45am - 5pm, Monday to Friday. Closed weekends and bank holidays).
  • Email: ukraineresponse@oxfordshire.gov.uk

Residents can also access more support information from Asylum Welcome.