Teams at Oxfordshire County Council are continuing preparations to provide wraparound support for refugees who will ultimately find a permanent home in the county in the coming weeks.
Social care and education staff will be at the forefront of the support provided once district councils have been able to conclude work with the central government and others to find permanent local homes for refugees.
Meanwhile, teams have also been busy cataloguing the generous donations the people of the county have made in response to the Afghan refugee situation during the second half of August. Last week the county council said no further donations were needed after a wide array of items were offered by warm-hearted residents in the county.
Councillor Liz Leffman, the Leader of the Oxfordshire County Council, said: “While the district councils will deal with the housing needs of those refugees who stay with us in Oxfordshire the county council will have a crucial and ongoing role in providing day-to-day services such as schooling and care that are so important to new arrivals in any country but especially to people who have had to uproot from their home in such traumatic circumstances.
“At the moment here in Oxfordshire and in many other cities, towns and counties throughout the UK, refugees are quarantining – as all arrivals in the country are required to do due to COVID. As is the case throughout the country they will then have temporary accommodation before moving into permanent new homes with the assistance of our district councils.
“We are very limited in the extent to which we can give a commentary on this process because we don’t want to reveal the locations at which refugees are being homed. As we have said before they have been through a traumatic experience and they are now in an entirely new country. That will take a long time to sink in, they need to adjust and we need to give them the time, space and peace to do so.
“As councils, we have the same safeguarding responsibilities to our guests that we would have to people who are in the care of our adult and children’s social care teams.
“The flights in to the UK have ended now and like all councils in the UK we will be moving through the gradual process of helping our guests to settle in and come to terms with what’s happened. We will provide public updates as much as we can without jeopardizing the right of our guests to as much quiet as we can create for them and the privacy that they need.”
Teams have been stock-taking the huge amount of donations made by Oxfordshire people. Baby care items including nappies and large amounts of clothes for men, women and children ranging from underwear to T-shirts and socks have been donated. Some of the clothing has been culturally appropriate for the refugees. Cuddly toys, hygiene packs including toothpaste and shampoo etc and prayer mats are also among the items donated.
Any excess items will be shared with partner agencies involved in the response such as British Red Cross to restock the emergency response vehicle that responds to major incidents across the county and to other agencies that will be supporting Afghan refugees.
Councillor Leffman added: “The response has been tremendous and heart-warming, I really can’t thank enough those who have donated. Their generosity has made a big difference to our guests. Many items were distributed to new arrivals at RAF Brize Norton and have therefore already proved very useful. Should we at any stage require further donations we will let the public know.”
The UK evacuated more than 8,000 Afghan people eligible for relocation from 13 August under The Afghan Relocations and Assistance Policy (ARAP), which is for former locally employed staff and their families whose lives had been assessed to be under serious threat from the Taliban.
The Home Office has announced that those who worked for the British military and the UK government will be able to move to the UK permanently. In other words, those eligible under this policy will be given indefinite leave to remain, rather than the five years' residency previously offered.
The government’s second scheme to resettle Afghans - the Afghan Citizens’ Resettlement Scheme - is still in development and will aim to take in up to 20,000 refugees over the coming years, with a focus on women and children, as well as religious and other minorities.