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The latest news from Asylum Welcome.

We also contribute to the debates on asylum and detention in the media.

Community Kindness 2020

Tuesday, December 15, 2020

Refugees and asylum seekers have so much to contribute to our local community, but they need your support…

Asylum Welcome is an amazing Oxford-based charity that provides life-changing support to more than 1,700 asylum seekers, refugees and vulnerable migrants each year. Our work relies heavily on the active involvement of local people.


In these very tough times, we are reaching out to spread the word about what we do and to see if you can offer your support. If you are already one of our many volunteers or supporters, then please accept our heartfelt thanks for all that you do. If you are not familiar with our work, then I hope you will take a moment to read about Asylum Welcome and see how you can help.

Refugees and asylum seekers are some of the most marginalised people in our community. There are many people in Oxfordshire who are facing exceptional adversity – including hunger, destitution and homelessness – and this has been compounded by COVID-19. With the right support, our clients go on to achieve incredible things and to contribute so much to local life.

Did you know, for example, that the much-loved, world-famous and ground-breaking Mini was created in Oxford by Alec Issigonis, a Greek refugee who fled Turkey in 1922, at the end of the Greco-Turkish War (1919–1922)?

Asylum Welcome believes that refugees and asylum seekers should feel welcome, respected and understood, be able to exercise their rights and have their cases fairly considered, and have every opportunity to develop and share their talents.

Our integrated services are delivered by 100+ committed volunteers and a small staff team, 35% of whom have a refugee background. Our work includes advice and support for adults and families, a youth service, an education and employment service, 1:1 English lessons, a recycled bike project, and a food bank and hardship fund – for the many clients facing homelessness and destitution.

Local refugees and asylum seekers rely on the kindness of people like you – and this has never been more the case than during COVID-19

A story of hope in these difficult times

Friday, December 04, 2020

COVID-19 has been incredibly challenging for us all, and particularly so for our clients. But not everything is as hopeless as it first looks.
Thanks to you, our supporters, we have managed to keep our services running throughout the pandemic and to provide our community with the support they need. We are helping a particular group of people right now – women and children suffering domestic abuse and violence.

My name is Caritas Umulisa - I’ve been involved with Asylum Welcome for a number of years, and earlier this year I became a member of staff, working directly with women and girls who are often in the greatest need. We’ve seen a growing number of cases of domestic abuse and violence over recent months; it’s one of the most difficult aspects of our work.

Sadly, this is an issue I know all too well through my own experience. I too fled my country, seeing domestic violence as a norm affecting my family and neighbours over 20 years ago. I sought asylum here in the UK looking to rebuild my life – thankfully, I was granted refugee status and I’ve built up professional knowledge and expertise in social care and women’s support services. So I can really empathise with those women I meet who are facing the most difficult time of their lives.

I want to share one story with you because it demonstrates the resilience of our clients in the face of great difficulty, and the best of what Asylum Welcome can do...
When I first met Khadija (not her real name), she was highly distressed. Khadija’s husband had been physically abusive towards her; the police and social services had got involved and Khadija’s husband had left. Khadija was now deeply anxious about the future, for herself and for her two young children.

I was shocked at her physical and mental state – she was trembling with fear, and there were clear signs that she had been beaten and hurt. The restrictions of the first lockdown were also adding to her anxiety and isolation.
"I was at the lowest point in my life... I felt scared about what would happen to me and I just didn't know what to do next." 
Khadija - before being helped by Asylum Welcome

Like many women who have suffered from domestic violence, Khadija’s needs fell into two distinct phases. Firstly, she needed emergency financial help to stay in her home, change the locks, and ensure that she had food for herself and her children (one of whom has special educational needs and requires additional support). Asylum Welcome immediately provided Khadija with food deliveries and access to our hardship fund, and we put her in direct contact with the Oxfordshire Domestic Abuse Service (ODAS).

Khadija, being on a spouse visa, had ‘no recourse to public funds.’ However, there is a concession for those who have suffered domestic violence and are at risk of destitution – and we knew how to help Khadija make a claim for Universal Credit. We managed to secure Khadija a basic income despite a very complicated process – her husband had tried unsuccessfully to claim money by fraudulently making a claim in her name. 

Whilst Khadija and her children have faced a very uncertain legal future in the UK, Khadija’s husband has continued to threaten her and to cause immense anxiety and distress. During a ‘second phase’ of assistance, we provided Khadija with crucial emotional support, and helped her to access specialist immigration legal advice and support from social services. I know from my own experience that dealing with so many issues at the same time takes a devastating toll on one’s physical and mental health. But I also know that the expert help and advice given to someone as vulnerable as Khadija brings enormous relief and boosts confidence where none existed before.

Things are now getting much better for Khadija. She has shown remarkable fortitude in dealing with so many difficult issues at the same time, and we will continue standing alongside her every step of the way.

"I really feel better since Asylum Welcome have been helping me. They make no judgements; I am free to be myself. A few months ago I thought every good thing had ended for me but at last I am hopeful that things are getting better.” Khadija - after being helped by Asylum Welcome

Stories such as Khadija’s are distressing, yet they show how Asylum Welcome helps asylum seekers and refugees facing domestic violence to cope and move forward. We know that we can only do this with your ongoing support.

With your support today we will help many more people like Khadija

Can you make a special donation of £20, £40 or whatever you can afford to help our clients cope, particularly vital during the winter cold months and even more so during the pandemic?

I hope you’ll feel able to make a special donation this winter. It will make all the difference.

Thank you and best wishes for Christmas and the New Year,

PS. Khadija’s case is just one of those that I have been dealing with in recent weeks. Many domestic abuse support services were full to capacity prior to the pandemic, and the lockdown has made things far worse. Local support groups are building up waiting lists, even for those who need urgent help – here at Asylum Welcome we will always act quickly to support those in need. Thank you.

“We form each other’s family: mother, brother, sister and friend”

Tuesday, December 01, 2020
“We form each other’s family: mother, brother, sister and friend” - helping refugee and migrant community groups better support their own communities

How many of us are aware that there are several thousand people from East Timor living in our city and county? They are able to be here because of their country’s colonial links with Portugal, and EU freedom of movement. Many have only a modest education, struggle in English, are in poor housing, low paid and zero hours employment. They have been hit hard by COVID. Some are not entitled to the state support we all take for granted; a community that has been ignored and left to struggle on their own on our door steps.

Living alongside them, most closely in East Oxford, are tens of young Eritrean men, many of whom came here as boys fleeing violence in their homeland and who have or are about to graduate from council care. Ill-prepared for life and work in the UK, and often living right on the margins of our society, they come together for support, company, being there for one another as they describe it: “we form each other’s family: mother, brother, sister and a friend”. So, no wonder when one has a job, they pay for the pitch for five a side football.

While COVID has hit all of us in different ways, it has hit those already most marginalised and with the weakest family and community support structures hardest. This has exacerbated many issues, but they all build on longer-standing challenges.

The Sudanese community is much more mixed than the Eritrean in terms of people’s backgrounds and status, how long they have been in the UK and what they now do. But they recognise that their children are struggling with a world of multiple cultures and languages, and so have organised extra Saturday classes for the children within the community.

Whether migrants from East Timor, or asylum seekers and refugees from Eritrea, Syria, Sudan, Iran and so many other countries, the reality of their lives in Oxfordshire is very different from their dreams when they started the long and often difficult journey to get here. While extended families back home wait for financial support from their loved ones across the world, many recent and not so recent arrivals in our country are actually living on the edge, struggling to keep body and soul together. For those in the lengthy process of claiming asylum, the official Asylum Support allowance of not much over £5 a day doesn’t stretch very far.

While government departments, councils and charities all do valuable work and have stepped up housing and hardship support during the lockdown, we know that many refugees and migrants are actually reliant on friends, countrymen and well-wishers for somewhere to sleep, the next meal and, just as importantly, someone to talk to who understands them.

As well as those vital individual relationships, there is a rich tapestry of community organisations across the county, linking people according to ethnicity, language, community or shared experience. In many ways, while organisations like Asylum Welcome are the front line for ensuring effective information, advice and practical support in all areas of their life are provided, these community organisations are the real front line on the human front. They give people a chance to meet, fulfil some gaps left in their lives, share, help each other and seek to better themselves.

The challenge that Asylum Welcome, helped by OCF, is trying to respond to is how we most usefully help these community organisations to best support their own communities. Some organisations have formal structures, others are informal groupings of friends and their friends. There’s no reason why they should all be the same or follow a standard blueprint. We need to work together to identify resources available in and for their communities, share our experience and expertise and explore how best they can build on their own strengths and aspirations.

In opening a dialogue between community leaders and Asylum Welcome, we’ve found that some emerging groups are asking for advice and practical assistance for engaging with their wider community, some want help with governance, including to register to become eligible for other sources of funds, some want help with finance management; some, access to funding opportunities. Some want channels to better make their voices heard; others language training tailored specifically to their communities’ needs. Many want a partner to share the financial burden of running activities that benefit their wider community, but are currently being paid for by only the few members who can afford it. As a small charity ourselves we certainly don’t have all the answers or extensive resources, but, using our rich volunteer network, the skills of our staff and seed funding from OCF, we hope we can offer a useful service that will steadily grow.

The project has only been running for three months. So far, we are in close dialogue with about a dozen organisations and groups, with more in the city and across the county likely to get involved soon. We have begun to help a number of organisations individually, have run the first training for those with shared interests, and made the first small grants. Next year we hope to bring organisations together with the hope of sharing their experience, celebrating their success and identifying areas of shared interest. We are already working closely with our colleagues at Refugee Resource, both to support groups that they identify and make use of their professional expertise in support for mental health and wellbeing.

Living and working across the world for many years, I saw how important informal and often unspoken community support is in all countries and cultures; we’ve recently seen that vividly here in the UK as countless community groups quickly mobilised around COVID. We hope that this project can help build on the best of all of these traditions across Oxfordshire, and promote togetherness and solidarity across communities.

EU citizens urged to apply to the EU Settlement Scheme

Friday, November 06, 2020

Oxford’s EU citizens are urged to apply for the EU Settlement Scheme before the deadline of 30 June 2021, and to contact the Europa Welcome service if they need help with their application.

Those who have not applied by the deadline will lose their legal rights to live, work and access benefits in the UK. 

Europa Welcome service offers help

Oxford charity Asylum Welcome has secured a new contract with the Home Office to continue its Europa Welcome service, supporting vulnerable EU Citizens to make their application. EU, EEA and Swiss citizens need to have applied for settled status by the deadline.

The Europa Welcome service, working together with Oxford City Council and other partner and community organisations, has already helped many make successful applications since June 2019.

Trained and dedicated volunteers, supported by an experienced lawyer, guide clients through the process from start to finish. The team can provide independent and confidential advice with EUSS applications. Europa Welcome offers face-to-face appointments under COVID-safe conditions and video appointments. Translation is available if needed.

How to get support

Staff and volunteers at Europa Welcome are available Mondays to Thursdays for clients and organisations supporting them to get in touch, for email or phone advice, or to make an appointment for help with EUSS applications. Further information about this service is on the Asylum Welcome website. You can also contact them on 07719128054 or by email


EU Settlement Scheme deadlines

Under the UK’s Withdrawal Agreement the vast majority of the estimated 17,500 EU citizens living in Oxford must apply to the EU Settlement Scheme by 30 June 2021. Those who fail to do so, barring some exceptions, will become unlawfully resident in the UK. The process is designed to be simple and easily accessible, but some people have more complex issues.

Under the EUSS, which is free to apply to, applicants who have lived in the UK for five years or more will be granted Indefinite Leave to Remain, also known as ‘Settled Status’. Those with less than five years will be granted Limited Leave to Remain, also known as ‘Pre-Settled Status’. Family members of EU citizens are also eligible to apply, even if they themselves are not EU citizens.


Councillor Hosnieh Djafari-Marbini, Oxford City Council Migrant Champion, said:


“This has been a hugely distressing time for many of our residents who have had to deal with the uncertainty around their rights to live, work and access services in their home city of Oxford, as well as the horrible challenges of a pandemic. The pandemic has proven that we are only as safe as our most vulnerable neighbour. Settled status will give many of our colleagues and neighbours much needed reassurance and the safety nets we all need at this time.


“Asylum Welcome’s Europa service working in conjunction with Oxford City Council, will continue to provide an invaluable service not just by guiding our neighbours through this process, but by expanding the net of safety needed by us all. Please get in touch with them if you are finding that the whole process of applying for the settlement scheme is causing worries and sleepless nights.”


Mark Goldring, Director of Asylum Welcome, said:

“We have already helped over 800 applicants, and we know that this has brought them huge reassurance about their status in the United Kingdom after Brexit – giving them real security about their right to work and access benefits in these uncertain times. The time to act if you have not already done so, is now. 

“We know that the pandemic has already introduced some complexity and delays into the process and so we really do urge people to get in touch with us as we are here to help.”

Dr. Ruvi Ziegler, Oxford European Association, said:

“As Oxford's residents EU citizens have made invaluable contributions to the culture, prosperity, and success of Oxford.  It is incumbent on all stakeholders, the Government and all employers, institutions and local authorities to ensure that EU citizens are made aware through all available channels of the 30 June 2021 EUSS application deadline.”



Notes to editors

More information on the EU settlement scheme


Asylum Welcome is an Oxfordshire charity that tackles suffering and isolation among asylum seekers, refugees, detainees and vulnerable migrants who have fled persecution and danger in their own countries who are seeking refuge in Oxford and Oxfordshire.


For more information contact:

Nazan Ozgur, Europa Welcome Project Manager at Asylum Welcome, can be contacted on 07719128054 or email 


Oxford City Council Press Office can be contacted on 01865 252096 or by email at:

Asylum Welcome’s report on our work in 2019/20

Friday, September 11, 2020

I’m pleased to be able to share Asylum Welcome’s report on our work in 2019/20 – work in which you have played such a valuable part. We wanted to show our loyal and committed supporters how we have spent your money and what you have helped achieve, whether as a volunteer, a member, a donor or a long-term supporter.

Before the impact of Covid, we were able to directly assist about 1,500 refugees, asylum seekers and vulnerable migrants, and through them many more family members. And in the last six months, we have adapted and, in many cases, increased our work to help those most affected and in greatest need. Many long-serving volunteers and donors have stuck with us. New ones have come along when we have needed them most. The extra needs and practicalities of working safely and effectively in a Covid environment are certainly stretching all of us and costing us more.

As we look ahead to the next six months, we plan to increase our advisory services, especially on asylum and immigration. We are already increasing our work with young people in or leaving care. We will offer more support to local community organisations run by refugees themselves and will help more vulnerable migrants struggling to establish their rights to stay in the UK post-Brexit, before the legal window closes next year.

For all these reasons we hope we can count on your support in 2020 and beyond. But for now, we just want to say “Thank You” to you for helping improve the lives of so many peoples struggling for safety and dignity in what can feel like a very uncaring world.

With deep appreciation on behalf of all those we work for and with,

Mark Goldring CBE

Asylum Welcome’s Reopening Services Information

Thursday, July 09, 2020

Asylum Welcome’s Reopening Services Information

We are delighted to announce that, given new government guidelines, we will resume full services from 15 July and our offices will begin to reopen to clients as follows:

Clients will be able to enter the office for appointments or to make them. We are sorry that we can’t operate the Welcome Centre or computer access yet. We will do so as soon as it is safe to do so.  

Please come promptly for appointments arriving just ahead of time as our waiting space is limited. People will be kindly asked to leave after their meeting.

If you have any Covid symptoms or have been in contact with anyone who has, please do not come to our office and instead seek advice by phone or email.

To get further information or for general queries please call 01865 722082 or 07740108550 or email 

Adult and Family Service: please call 01865 722082 during working hours or send us an email to

Youth Service: please call 01865 722082 during working hours on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday or send an email to

Europa Welcome: please call 07719 128054 during working hours on Monday and Thursday or send an email to

Shared Talents (Education and Employment): from 20th of July please call 01865 722082 on Monday and Thursday, or send an email to: or to

Huntercombe Project: please call 07742 249539 or send an email to

Food Bank: food parcels will be available to clients between 11am and 1pm on Tuesdays.

Bike Project: please write to and 

One-year countdown to apply to the EU Settled Status

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

One-year countdown to apply to the EU Settled Status


There is still one year to apply to the EU Settlement Scheme. EU citizens and their families have one year from today until 30 June 2021 to apply for settled status and Europa Welcome is here to help!


Over the last year 872 people accessed our Europa Welcome service at Asylum Welcome. We supported 565 people to apply for settled or pre-settled status. 350 EU citizens who submitted applications with our support received positive decisions from the Home Office.


Our remarkable team of eight volunteers includes four OISC EUSS Level 1 qualified volunteers who were all trained and accredited during the last year and four trained to the OISC EUSS L1 are now waiting to be accredited.


If you would like our help all you need is your passport/ID and evidence of your residence. If you need help to apply, contact us: and we’ll be more than happy to help you. To find out more, please visit:


Late last year a lovely elderly woman who received her settled status with the support of our wonderful Europa Welcome volunteers felt so grateful and pleased that she very generously sent us a donation to thank us for helping her, and as her contribution to support AW helping others. You can read her lovely hand-written note in the image above. It is a lot harder for elderly EEA citizens who might have been living here for a long time never having to worry about their immigration status suddenly finding themselves having to prove their residence to apply to get their status and become legal residents because of Brexit. That is hard for them – and for many of us - to grasp. There is also the issue of difficulty the elderly can have with providing a digital proof of status rather than a residence card. We have found it is disproportionately harder for the elderly to prove their EUSS status online digitally due to age and related health and other problems.


For example, another client had lived in the UK since the 70s, having moved over here when she and her British husband got married. She had become quite worried about Brexit and what it would mean, to the point where she was having sleepless nights and anxiety attacks. When she came to see us we discussed her situation and her rights, and established that she had been given ILR shortly after her arrival here. However, she was still concerned about her situation and so we helped her complete and submit her application. When the screen displayed that she would be considered for Settled Status, she began to cry because she was so relieved. She has since been given her Settled Status.


Another client was in her 80s, and had moved to the UK in the 1950s. She barely used technology and so she would not have been able to complete the process herself (we posted her the Home Office letter as she doesn't even use email with ease). We explained the process to her, and as she had worked her whole life, there was a good match with HMRC and DWP records. She has since been given her Settled Status, and (as with the client above) commented that it was a weight off her shoulders as she had been worried about her future. She explicitly said that she would not have been able to complete the application without us. She says she is now going to apply for British citizenship.


These cases exemplify just how concerned people are about their rights, and combined with an absence of technological knowledge, are but a couple of important reasons these clients came to us needing help. Cases like this highlight our concerns about the lack of a physical document to prove status, as well as the reliance on technology to complete the process: both of these clients are well-established in the UK, they have spent their entire adult lives here, their grasp of language is perfect, and yet without support, they would not have been able to apply and in theory, would have become illegal from July 2021.


Please help us spread the word and encourage anyone you may know that still has not applied to EU Settled Status to give us a call and find out how we can help. 

Support for homeless people, including those with no recourse to public funds (NRPF), during and after the Covid-19 pandemic

Saturday, June 27, 2020
Asylum Welcome has recently signed two important letters addressed to national and local authorities urging them to commit to providing ongoing shelter and support to all those experiencing or at risk of homelessness during and after the Covid-19 pandemic, and to do so regardless of immigration status. We are also publicly calling on the government to end the ‘no recourse to public funds’ (NRPF) regime, which exposes many people living in the UK to destitution, including rough sleeping.

Asylum Welcome, in partnership and solidarity with a plethora of local and national refugee organisations, has signed an open letter to local authorities urging them not to evict homeless people with NRPF from accommodation provided through the Covid-19 homelessness response and asking them to call publicly for an end to NRPF.

Nobody should be forced to sleep rough, regardless of their immigration status. Nobody should be forced to leave the country they call ‘home’.

In light of the above, we are asking your local authority to take the following steps:

1. Commit to continuing to support everybody who is, or is at risk of, sleeping rough, and to do so regardless of immigration status

2. Urgently and publicly advocate to central government for the removal of all NRPF restrictions, including those that apply to undocumented migrants and EEA citizens without a qualifying right to reside, to ensure that everyone can access shelter and meet their basic needs during and after the Covid-19 pandemic.

3. Provide assurances that homeless people’s data will never be shared with the Home Office without their informed consent and that nobody will be offered ‘voluntary return’ or ‘reconnection’ to their country of origin as a ‘single service offer’.

To read the full letter, please click here.

Asylum Welcome together with British Red Cross also wrote to the Minister for Local Government and Homelessness, Luke Hall, MP to all local authorities in England on 28 May 2020 regarding the next phase of support for rough sleepers during the Covid-19 pandemic. As part of the next steps plan that Oxford City Council have been asked to put in place, we request a commitment that this plan will be developed and delivered in partnership with local agencies, and that it supports people with no recourse to public funds (NRPF) you are currently accommodating under public health powers, to find sustainable housing options as the government relaxes its lockdown measures.

We are now looking to Oxford City Council to lead the way with an effective next steps strategy for people with NRPF, and to include this in the action plan. Specifically, we ask that the plan: 
1. Works in partnership with relevant local actors to ensure that everyone receives relevant independent advice and support to secure suitable longer-term accommodation and sustainable outcomes.

2. Upholds the best interests of people who are medically shielding and enables them to remain in local authority accommodation.

3. Ensures that no-one is evicted without a move-on option and provides people with NRPF as much reasonable notice as possible (at least 12 weeks) to vacate local authority accommodation.

To read the full letter, please click here.

Asylum Welcome seeks new Trustees – Could that be you?

Saturday, June 27, 2020

Asylum Welcome is amazing. Our small staff team and over 140 volunteers support asylum seekers, refugees, and vulnerable migrants, who seek refuge in Oxford. We provide everything from food and clothes to advice, visits, legal support, education, and assistance finding employment. Asylum Welcome is a financially stable organisation that transforms the lives of those it serves.

We have an increasing demand for Asylum Welcome’s services at a time when we also need to transform how we deliver services. We are seeking to appoint individuals to our Board. We are particularly keen to hear from people who have first-hand experience of refugee and asylum-seeking experience, or migration.

We are looking for people who will:

Be committed to the rights and welfare of refugees asylum seekers and vulnerable migrants and to Asylum Welcome’s vision, mission and values.

Have demonstrable expertise and/or experience of a relevant field, particularly in one of the following:

  • Knowledge of the refugee experience, research, and good links with Universities
  • Knowledge and experience of Volunteer Management
  • Experience of developing relationships with partner organisations, stakeholders, and supporters
  • Digital technology, communication, and marketing skills

For further information, please click Trustee JD

Get in touch...

Email your CV and a short (no more than 1 page) covering letter setting out why you want to join us and how you meet the person specification to Val Johnson Co-Chair of Trustees at

Tony Samuel and Val Johnson, Co-Chairs of the Asylum Welcome Board

Asylum Welcome Refugee Week Homeless Appeal 2020

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

As lockdown restrictions begin to be lifted and central government funding to support homeless people with temporary accommodation during Covid-19 lockdown comes to an end we are extremely concerned that some homeless people, particularly those with No Recourse to Public Funds, NRPF, may be evicted from council-provided accommodation and be forced to return to destitution.

Despite the efforts of some councils, many homeless people, particularly those with NRPF, have remained without shelter during this pandemic. Others have experienced inadequate support once accommodated.

The theme of this year’s Refugee Week is ‘Imagine.’ For some of our clients, having fled violence and persecution, their imagination is the one place of safety they can turn to when the real world is so difficult. This Refugee Week, we want to ask if you could consider making a special donation in support of Oxford’s asylum seeker and refugee community.

Most of us can barely imagine this, yet homelessness is one of the most critical challenges facing many of our clients. Half of the refugees, asylum seekers and their families whom we see each year face a substantial risk of homelessness – and this has been exacerbated by COVID-19. We are currently focusing on providing wraparound support to approximately 100 people – those who are the most vulnerable and the least likely to be helped by other services. 

Many of our clients are now homeless or inadequately housed and many have no recourse to basic support services. Some of our clients who don’t normally have a right to public support have been provided with temporary housing. But this will end when the COVID-19 emergency ends. We must be there for them, and we need your support more than ever as we turn our attention to safe housing.

If you would like to find out more about our Homeless Appeal and how you can help please click here.

Thank you.