This International Migrants Day, Saturday 18 December, I want to recognise the value of migrants in Oxford.
Oxford is home to people with family roots in countries from around the world. Migrants play a huge part in the life of our city. As we face the challenge of another winter with covid it’s a great time to remind ourselves how much Oxford relies on people from around the globe as well as providing a warm welcome.
Watch the news and you see the desperate, sometime tragic, struggle of migrants trying to reach us across the channel. But most people arrive in Oxford through regular routes, with paperwork in place, an offer to study or even a job to come to. They leave behind their families and friends to look for better opportunities – to send money home, to give their children a better start, or just to broaden their horizons. Just as our young people and ex-pats seek out opportunities abroad.
In Oxford our outstanding hospitals attract many overseas workers. Not just as doctors and nurses, but porters, cleaners, caterers who are also essential to our patients and their families. Our universities attract talent from around the world, and many choose to stay here and contribute – just looking at our charities and volunteers we see so many different nationalities. A walk round town will reveal small businesses from around the world. While we celebrate the different cultures they bring, we can also celebrate a common love of this city, its people and its open mindedness. Where else would you find May Morning celebrating samba alongside morris dancers, or Little Amal and a giant Alice wandering the streets.
We can’t talk about migrants without also thinking of those that are facing desperate challenges. Fleeing war, trafficked by criminals, or escaping danger and discrimination. They have a right to safety and security, and the UK can do a great deal to provide that. We must step up to our responsibilities among the developed nations, and in Oxford we must step up to our responsibilities among the UK’s cities.
International Migrants Day this year focuses on the potential of human mobility. Here in Oxford I believe we show how powerful that can be. We know we rely on migrants for many of our vital services and we attract some of the best talent from abroad. Our children speak many languages, they celebrate many festivals, but they grow up among Oxford history and traditions and belong right here. Together we’re all part of building stronger, more resilient communities to create a successful future for everyone in Oxford.