Two families arrived at Oxford in December as part of the national Syrian resettlement
program and are settling in to Oxford life.
Oxford City Council is working with Asylum Welcome, an organization providing support for asylum seekers, refugees and detainees in Oxford and Oxfordshire. It is expecting to settle a number more families over the coming months.
Councillor Bob Price, Leader of Oxford City Council, said: ‘These families have had a very long journey before arriving in Oxford and I am pleased to welcome them to our city. I am pleased to hear that the families have settled in so quickly and are enjoying their time here.’
This is part of the 20,000 Syrian refugees that the UK will accept over the next five years, a ‘moral responsibility’ that David Cameron has called a ‘national effort’. This number has been criticized however as ‘falling pitifully short of what is needed’ by the Green Party’s Caroline Lucas and as ‘a very slim response’ by Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby.
Refugees have arrived with little or no possessions so Asylum Welcome has been working hard to provide for arrivals. As Kate Smart, the Director of Asylum Welcome, said: ‘The orientation has been a mixture of English lessons, workshop sessions with a range of people such as police officers, social workers and health professionals’.
‘A really moving moment for us was to see the children in their brand new school uniforms for the first time last week because they have been living in camps some have not been to school for several years, some never’
She has said this introduction to Oxford is going well: ‘The families are in good spirits and are responding well to our efforts to cram information into them and to inspire them with the confidence that life here is going to be OK’.
The overall scheme will be paid for in the first year by the overseas aid budget but after this the source of funding will be decided by the government, in conjunction with local councils.
At the same time the Oxford Students Refugee Campaign (OXSRC) has been working separately in the University to develop schemes that will provide financial and welfare support for displaced students. They aim to get every Oxford student to contribute just £1 a month to fund such a scholarship, a motion that has passed in 21 common rooms amounting to around 8,000 students who are now subscribed in an opt-out scheme.