Oxford City Council pledges to support Afghan refugees

Published: Monday, 13th September 2021

Oxford City Council is pledging to support Afghan refugees to build new lives in the city and has been working hard to find suitable homes.

Today it is issuing a call for more landlords to come forward.

 There has been huge support from people in Oxford to help those who have fled Afghanistan, and the Council is determined to play its part on behalf of the city. But it takes more than just the Council’s commitment – landlords, businesses and communities are also needed to work as partners with the Council and refugee organisations.

With a critical shortage of social housing in the city and over 2,000 families on the council house waiting list, the city cannot offer council housing to resettle refugees.

The Council aims to use funding from the Government’s Afghan Resettlement and Assistance Policy (ARAP) scheme to find homes for Afghan refugee families in the private rented sector, similar to the successful work to support Syrian families under the  Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Scheme.

Afghan resettlement

Finding homes for the Afghan refugees who have been evacuated from their country is a national priority. These families are now in the UK, living in temporary hotel accommodation and unable to start their new lives until they have a stable home.

The government has recently increased its funding for the ARAP scheme, which supports those who worked with UK forces and the UK government in Afghanistan. An extra £5million funding was added last month to support housing costs, and this has enabled Oxford City Council to look again at participating in the scheme.

The government has not yet announced details and funding for the Afghan Resettlement Programme for other Afghan refugees, many of who are now in the UK.

A call out to landlords

The city council is currently working with landlords to identify properties that could be rented under the ARAP scheme, and is asking for more landlords to consider letting property to them for refugee families. The housing needed is likely to be larger, family homes.

The council is initially looking for up to ten family homes that can be rented at or near the Local Housing Allowance.

The funding provides security for a full twelve month contract, and families will receive additional support from local authorities and partners to establish their lives in the UK. Oxford City Council has joined other local authorities in lobbying for the Government to extend the duration of this scheme.

Experienced council staff will support landlords and tenants through the process of resettlement and provide ongoing support for the tenancy.

To find out more information or offer property please email [email protected]

Resettling refugees

Oxford City Council has already resettled 30 families, predominantly from Syria and Iraq, through the Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Scheme. Eight more families are expected to be supported by March 2022 through its replacement, the UK Resettlement Scheme.

The council has experience at successfully settling refugees and helping them establish new lives in Oxford. This would not be possible without the support of partners across the county, including:

  • the county council which provides adult and childrens’ services and education;
  • refugee charities including Asylum Welcome, Refugee Resource, and Connection Support, who provide advice, connections and support services including mental health support
  • businesses who provide mentoring, skills development and assistance into employment
  • the universities, who have provided education skills support
  • community groups who provide local advice, social connections and support for families

“Thousands of Afghan refugees have been airlifted to safety in the UK, and we now have the urgent task of providing them the chance to start their new lives. But as everyone who lives in Oxford knows, this is an expensive city to rent or buy, which can exclude many people with connections here as well as new arrivals. That’s why it’s so important that the government funds these resettlement schemes properly, so that we can continue to support both current and new residents in our city.

“We’re asking landlords to get in touch if they think their property could provide a home for an Afghan family. There is no commitment, we will work with you to see if we can agree a suitable arrangement. But there are many benefits – not just a guaranteed tenancy, but the chance to offer something truly life changing, to get to know a new community and culture, and to support the first steps a family will take on the path to becoming part of Oxford.”

Councillor Susan Brown, Leader of Oxford City Council

“We want to offer sanctuary to those most in need, and with the support of our communities and businesses many have been able to build successful lives here. There have already been overwhelming offers of support for Afghans from residents here, and I want to thank all those who have come forward. Although we’re yet to welcome any newly arrived families, when the time comes I know that Oxford’s communities will be ready to support them.”

Councillor Shaista Aziz, Cabinet Member for Inclusive Communities