Oxford’s first Migrant Champion announced

Published: Tuesday, 23rd July 2019

Oxford City Council has appointed Councillor Hosnieh Djafari-Marbini as Oxford’s first Migrant Champion at last night’s Full Council meeting (22/07).

Councillor Djafari-Marbini, who represents Northfield Brook ward, will be working with migrants and refugees, helping them to access and connect with local services and advice centres, and ensuring their needs are considered and voices heard in council policy.

The Council unanimously voted in support of Councillor Dafari-Marbini’s motion to sign and establish ‘Oxford’s commitment to asylum seekers, migrants and refugees’.

Councillor Djafari-Marbini said: “I am delighted to take up this role to help the Council build on its strong record of supporting people from migrant backgrounds and reaffirm Oxford as a City of Sanctuary. I will be looking at how we can build on this record ensuring all our citizens can access local services, with their rights protected, basic needs met and voices heard in council policy.

“My father is a political refugee and we moved here from Tehran when I was 13. I spoke hardly any English and everyday life was a real challenge. At times it felt like there was a curtain that separated us from the others at our local high school. I now feel hugely honoured and privileged to be working as a Consultant Anaesthetist at Oxford University Hospitals and to be representing the people of Oxford as a City Councillor.

“There are some fantastic organisations across the city, not least those run by individuals with lived experiences of these issues. I hope we can all continue to work closely together to try and lift that curtain as much as possible and develop that crucial net of support for others facing similar circumstances.

“These are frightening times for many with openly racist rhetoric and, crucially, government actions, creating a hostile environment for some of our citizens and blurring the lines between public service provision and immigration enforcement. I have seen first-hand, in my work both as a doctor and as a visitor to Campsfield House, not only how ineffective this strategy is, but also how it fundamentally transforms and erodes the precious culture of our public services and our NHS.

“I am proud to be part of a Council that does not have any embedded UK visa and immigration staff in our frontline services. I hope to continue this work with our partners and also ensure we support those, especially the Windrush generation, affected by these policies.

“To truly be a City of Sanctuary, we need to return to the basic values of justice, human rights and dignity for all - we each matter by the virtue of our shared humanity. I look forward to hearing from all of you the citizens of Oxford on how we can work together in this area.”

Councillor Susan Brown, Leader of Oxford City Council said: “I am really pleased to be announcing the creation of the role of Migrant Champion for Oxford City. Councillor Djafari-Marbini has personal experience of coming to this country as a refugee and has worked with migrant communities to help them settle in this country and feel welcome. This work has never been more important than at this time when many migrants are concerned about their future. I want to assure all citizens of Oxford that we remain a city open to all cultures and religions, and that we welcome and celebrate our multi ethnic city.”

Councillor Djafari-Marbini will be working closely with Cllr Marie Tidball, Cabinet Member for Supporting Local Communities, on promoting inclusive communities.

Councillor Djafari-Marbini joins the City Council’s existing seven Champions:

  • Councillor Shaista Aziz, Representation in the Workforce Champion
  • Councillor Richard Howlett, Cooperatives Champion
  • Councillor Rae Humberstone, Armed Forces and Veterans Champion
  • Councillor Pat Kennedy, Older Peoples’ Champion
  • Councillor Mark Lygo, Champion for Sports in Schools
  • Councillor Chewe Munkonge, Small Business Champion
  • Councillor Martyn Rush, Living Wage Champion

Alongside duties as local councillors, the council Champions bring their expertise and engagement with key groups and members of the community to provide the Cabinet members with knowledge and advice to inform decision-making.