Advice centres pledge non-cooperation with Home Office hostile environment

Published: Monday, 4th November 2019

Oxford’s advice centres have followed Oxford City Council in pledging non-cooperation with the Home Office’s hostile environment on immigration.

Agnes Smith Advice Centre, Oxford Citizens Advice, Oxford Community Work Agency (Barton Advice Centre and Oxfordshire Welfare Rights) and Rose Hill & Donnington Advice Centre have all made the following commitment:

“Advice centres offer free, confidential and impartial advice. As advice agencies, we pledge to continue to represent and advocate for all people who seek our advice as equal members of the community, regardless of their immigration status. Our advice services are safe places and we welcome people seeking our advice free from fear of immigration enforcement. We have not reported and will never report anyone who seeks our advice to the Home Office for immigration enforcement and will continue to ensure our advisers correctly handle sensitive personal information to prevent this from happening.”

On 9 July, the council responded to reports that the Home Office planned to use charities to target non-UK rough sleepers by promising that Oxford homelessness services would never pass on people’s personal data to the Home Office without explicit consent. Councillor Linda Smith later added: “The Home Office’s hostile environment policy has no place in Oxford and we call on other councils to adopt our position.”

At full council on 22 July members unanimously passed a cross party motion reaffirming the council’s commitment to being a city of sanctuary, upholding the principles of dignity and respect for all and signing up to Oxford’s commitment to asylum seekers, refugees and migrants.

The motion emphasised the importance of refugee and asylum support groups and advice centres in helping people to access services. It also called on the council’s partners not to cooperate with the hostile environment by passing on personal data to Home Office immigration enforcement.

At the same meeting councillors appointed Councillor Hosnieh Djafari-Marbini as Oxford’s first migrant champion, helping migrant communities to access services and ensuring their needs are considered and voices heard in council policy. She said: “Oxford City Council will not cooperate with the Home Office’s hostile environment by passing on personal data to immigration enforcement teams and I’m really pleased that the city’s advice centres have adopted this stance too.”

“Advice services are vital in helping migrant communities to meet their needs and exercise their rights and responsibilities. People need the confidence of knowing they can get advice and representation without fear of detention or deportation, and the advice centres pledge is an important part of fostering a spirit of tolerance and inclusion in our city. Oxford is open to all cultures and religions, and as a city of sanctuary we will not tolerate the Home Office’s hostile environment to migrants old and new.” 

Councillor Marie Tidball, cabinet member for supporting local communities