Oxford City Council makes commitment to City of Sanctuary status

Published: Wednesday, 10th May 2023

Oxford City Council is working to become an accredited City of Sanctuary Local Authority as part of its approach to building thriving communities and a strong economy.

Migration has always been an important part of Oxford’s make-up, and today around one in three people in the city were born overseas. A significant number of residents are from outside the UK, in particular the European Union (EU), South Asia, and Africa.  They contribute to a strong local economy, especially in sectors like healthcare, hospitality and higher education. However a migrant’s journey is not always planned or easy.

New arrivals from overseas have many adjustments to make arriving in a new city, and particularly if they are refugees from war or persecution. Through the Local Authority of Sanctuary programme, the council is committed to better understanding their needs, working with partners to ensure they can access local services, and supporting both new arrivals and the local population to build strong communities together.

In 2019 the council signed the City of Sanctuary Charter. To become an accredited Local Authority of Sanctuary the council needs to go further, showing its commitment to taking action locally and to influencing national policy. The council also makes a commitment to learn, embed and share experience – by working with migrants and refugees, local communities, charities and voluntary organisations and other institutions. The council already works closely with partners to support refugees, and in recent years has supported government schemes for people from Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and Ukraine.

This week will also see the first Oxford Sanctuary Fair, a public event from the University of Oxford, Asylum Welcome and Oxford City Council. The free drop-in event aims to connect refugees, students and the community, with workshops, panel discussions and community organisation stalls. Participants include Councillor Shaista Aziz, Cabinet Member for Inclusive Communities and Culture, and Councillor Hosnieh Djafari-Marbini, Migrants Champion.

“Becoming a Local Authority of Sanctuary will make Oxford a better city for everyone. Oxford is a very diverse city, and migration has always been a part of our story. We want all residents to be able to live lives of promise and hope, whether they were born here or are building a new life in the city. Becoming a Local Authority of Sanctuary is a really important part of putting our ideas into action. We all need to work together to build a thriving city we want to live in.

“This week we’re proud to be partners in the Oxford Sanctuary Fair, where I’m looking forward to hearing voices from across all our communities and hearing how people in Oxford give and receive sanctuary.”

Councillor Shaista Aziz, Cabinet Member for Inclusive Communities and Culture

“As someone who came to the UK as the daughter of a refugee and speaking almost no English, I know how confusing and difficult it can be just trying to live daily life when you first arrive. Arriving in a new place you have to start everything from the beginning – a home, a job, school for your children – often without the help of family or friends and all the while missing everyone you had to leave behind. All of us who have to leave our homes and seek sanctuary just want to get on and rebuild our lives, and be able to live a dignified and fulfilled life. Becoming a Local Authority of Sanctuary will make us all better at enabling people do just that.”

Councillor Hosnieh Djafari-Marbini, Migrants Champion