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Sunday, June 26, 2022

Oxford-based charity Asylum Welcome offers help for local refugee hosts

Meg Lintern reports.

Oxford-based refugee charity Asylum Welcome is preparing to help the local groups, organisations, and individuals who are about to host Ukrainian refugees.

More than 20,000 applications have been received under the Homes for Ukraine scheme since it opened on the 18th of March, according to Richard Harrington, the minister for refugees. The scheme was designed to allow Ukrainian refugees with no family links to be hosted by members of the public in Britain, who will be paid £350 per month.

The government has not created a formal process for matching sponsors and Ukrainian guests. This will be carried out by community groups, faith groups, and NGOs. Security checks including Police National Computer checks, criminal records and Warning Index checks are made by the Home Office on every potential sponsor, as well as other adults in their household and the potential guest.

Asylum Welcome said in a press release: “Despite the organisation’s concerns around the scheme’s design, Asylum Welcome is heartened by the extraordinary expression of generosity from the public in response to the scheme, and is determined to help make it work.”

According to its website, Asylum Welcome’s mission is to offer “information, advice and practical support to asylum seekers, refugees and vulnerable migrants living in Oxfordshire”. Founded in 1991, it has since worked with refugees, asylum seekers, and immigration detainees in the area. It is a volunteer-based organisation that is backed by the Office of the Immigration Services Commissioner with over 100 active volunteers. In response to the ‘Homes for Ukraine’ programme, they have offered support and guidance for hosts in Oxfordshire.

Asylum Welcome is also working with councils and experts to design a more comprehensive programme of support for refugees. In the past weeks, it has recruited more staff to focus on supporting Ukrainian refugees, as well as organising a meeting attended by councils and local organisations to discuss how the ‘Homes for Ukraine’ scheme will work in Oxfordshire and what support could be valued.

Mark Goldring, the director of Asylum Welcome, said: “I want to say thank you to the thousands of people across the county who have expressed their wish to support people fleeing the war in Ukraine. It shows the generosity of the British public. The government needs to ensure the access routes for Ukrainians and indeed all others fleeing violence are made simpler, to ensure that those driven out by conflict are able to benefit from the generosity and kindness being shown by our communities. Asylum Welcome are determined to play our part in supporting the generous hosts and the new arrivals.”

Asylum Welcome is currently appealing for donations to fund its Ukraine service without restricting its work with refugees from many other less-publicised wars, conflicts, and crises. They welcome offers of support from anyone with relevant language skills. Donations can be made at www.asylum-welcome.org, and people can email [email protected] to offer support.

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