Dear Friends,

The articles in this newsletter are linked by a common thread of respect for every individual as a human being, a belief that every person has the right to safety, dignity and opportunity, and that we should do all we can to make this a reality.

This is the approach that Asylum Welcome takes to all our work and which leads us to combine practical help for refugees, asylum seekers and vulnerable migrants with challenging the policies that undermine this respect for human rights.

Perhaps the most recent and dramatic of these policies that needs challenging is the plan to reopen Campsfield House as an Immigration Removal Centre in 2023. We were pleased to support Layla Moran MP in challenging this plan in a special debate in Parliament last week and building collaboration with like-minded organisations was one of the main focuses of our AGM and Supporters meeting recently held in Oxford.

Helped by Prof Alex Betts, Director of the Refugee Studies Centre, we looked at global developments that will increase the number of refugees needing to come to the UK, national developments that will make life harder for them, and then what we can and are doing locally. The three articles below all illustrate this national and local action in different ways.

Allan, who was detained at Campsfield before it closed down, talks about his experience at our AGM

What they don’t do is describe how, in the week of that AGM and parliamentary debate, a hundred new Afghans arrived in Oxfordshire, many at just hours’ notice. Asylum Welcome is supporting them in two local hotels while they begin the long wait for permanent housing. It is positive that the government’s resettlement programme is still alive for some of those people at high risk who manage to travel from Afghanistan to neighbouring countries. It’s much uglier for those others, often in similar need, who don’t get on these programmes and make their own way overland to try and get to the UK. They are the ones likely to be deported to Rwanda or detained in Campsfield if it is reopened. It is that injustice that inspires Corinne’s powerful and beautiful artwork you can read about below.

Kind regards

The Hand of Friendship: an embroidered protest

by Corinne Welch

Corinne Welch, in the Proscholium with her scroll at the ‘Beyond the Pale’ exhibition at the Old Bodleian Library

The original competition call-out from the Bodleian Bibliographical Press in April invited artwork submissions that ‘respond to, and engage with, black shapes on the printed page’. I was intrigued by the subject matter, and thought immediately of heavily redacted government documents reluctantly released after Freedom of Information requests.

I had been appalled by the recent announcement by the Home Secretary, Priti Patel, that the UK intended to start forcibly deporting refugees and asylum seekers to Rwanda. I decided to channel my anger into an artwork as a response to this shocking immigration policy.

I found a transcript of Priti Patel’s announcement online, and printed it out. After just a few minutes of highlighting words from the main body of the speech, I realised that a hidden – more truthful – message could be revealed through a reverse redaction. A printed redaction would have blocked out most of the text of the speech, but I wanted there to remain a sense of the wording in its original form, to underline my incredulity that these were the actual words spoken by the Home Secretary. I decided upon embroidery as my chosen medium as I have an interest in ‘subversive stitch’ – using a traditionally domestic craft as an unexpected means of protest. I also felt that the dedication required for such a time-consuming method of working matched my strength of feeling about this important issue.

I chose to partially obscure much of the speech with lines of embroidered tally marks. These represent the thousands of individuals who face deportation under this cruel scheme. I also wanted to reflect the dehumanising way that refugees and asylum seekers are often reduced to target numbers in discussions around immigration. I typeset and printed out a section of the original speech onto calico, and then began the task of highlighting words by stitching the redaction in tally marks. The embroidery took around six weeks to complete – stitching most evenings after work. It proved to be a cathartic response to some of the rage I was feeling about the injustice of this unethical policy.

I decided to make the final embroidery into a scroll: a format which highlighted the performative nature of the announcement – delivered, with some fanfare, in Rwanda – as an illustration of the conspicuously ‘tough approach’ that the government wanted to be seen to be pursuing. Whilst I was completing the piece, the first planned deportation flight was halted after a last-minute intervention by the European Court of Human Rights. Although, at the time of writing, no flights have yet left the UK, relief is likely to be short-lived as the new Home Secretary, Suella Braverman, has reiterated her intention to continue with this inhumane scheme.

It has been proven that the threat of deportation is very damaging to the mental health of vulnerable migrants already here in the UK, but it has certainly not been a deterrent to those subsequently arriving in the hope of claiming asylum. The scheme is prohibitively costly, and appears to exist primarily as a piece of populist theatre to placate the right-wing press. It angers and saddens me to see our country reduced to this, and I know that this is not who we are.

As a self-employed graphic designer, I have always worked with charities, and my working relationship with Asylum Welcome dates back to 2005. They have become much more than a client to me, and I genuinely feel that I am part of their team. Over the years, I have designed many of their communications and as a result I have a much clearer understanding of the issues facing refugees and asylum seekers – and I am constantly inspired by AW’s amazing work. Outside of my day job, as an artist I specialise in making handmade books. The themes of these books are diverse, but this scroll artwork is perhaps the first time that the two aspects of my creative work have combined. I was very excited to be awarded Second Prize by the Bodleian for my submission, and I am happy to share the prize with Asylum Welcome, who very much provided the original inspiration.

The scroll will be displayed in the Proscholium at the Old Bodleian Library in Oxford as part of the ‘Beyond the Pale’ exhibition, running from 17 September – 6 November 2022. The exhibition is a display of contemporary interpretations of black squares, running in parallel with a display of historical examples from the Bodleian’s collection in the Weston Library. The artworks ‘express mourning of personal loss, grief for the environment, anger at political conflict and repression, or playful encouragements to recalibrate our vision of ‘black’’. After the exhibition, the scroll will then be accepted into the Bodleian Collection. I am pleased that there will be a permanent record of my response to our current shameful political climate.

The hand of friendship – a reverse redaction 360 x 370mm fabric scroll – digital print and hand embroidery

The reverse redaction of text from the original speech reads:

Evil and tragic approach
Illegal, dangerous and perilous system
Exploiting migrants with devastating consequences
It is a deeply unfair new solution
A joint deadly Plan
To control the world’s most desperate people

To visit and find out more about the exhibition, please visit: ‘Beyond the Pale’

You can read more about Corinne’s work at: and on Instagram: @corinne_welch_

Asylum Welcome’s work is a rich tapestry with multivarious strands and – continuing the theme of domestic crafts – our amazing volunteer Hannah has written a personal and uplifting account of her work with some of our Afghan clients, using knitting to create a ‘language’ beyond words.

We are very grateful to Hannah for reflecting so thoughtfully on her own volunteer journey as well. (A longer version of Hannah’s article is available on our website at the link here.)

Knitting together: my volunteer experience at Asylum Welcome

by Hannah Hempstead

My family moved to Oxford from the United States at the beginning of September, just as families were being evacuated from Afghanistan to the UK in 2021.

I grumpily unpacked my knitting supplies and shoved them in the cupboard, grumbling about the inconveniences of an international move: setting up new Wi-Fi; changing phone numbers; the never-ending piles of paperwork. I missed my old knitting group, I missed my old friends, I missed my old job, and I missed my old home that made sense. Soon enough I’d be dusting off those knitting supplies to start a fibre-arts activity group with families who are still, as I write, housed in a hotel and awaiting permanent homes.

I first joined Asylum Welcome to help with behind-the-scenes work. With my background in higher education and no foreign-language skills beyond German, I had written off the idea of being useful in a people-facing role and asked if I could help with the website. But Hannah and, Hari took the time to get to know me and helped identify ways to both apply my skills and branch out into new experiences. Because of their encouragement, I now have the joy of getting to know the Afghan families using a special ‘language’: knitting!

Several skilled adults come along simply to stitch in a social setting. A few women are putting us to shame with beautiful handiwork like the beautiful white crocheted cardigan in the photo below. Others come and observe whilst they chat with friends. Still others, mainly teenage and younger girls, are quickly picking up a new hobby to enjoy on the school bus or during free time.

To me, the group isn’t just about the jumpers, hats, or scarves we complete (although those are fun, too), it’s about more than that. Participating in a shared activity together, teaching each other new stitching skills, digging through big bags of donated wool, and celebrating milestones like new knitter’s first-ever row of stitches, has provided us all with a shared space to build community and friendship.

As a newcomer to the UK, my volunteer experience at Asylum Welcome has become one of the most significant things that has made Oxford feel like a home to me in the seven months since my arrival. And that is what Asylum Welcome does: help people regain a sense of dignity, space, place and home.

Want to get involved? Contact if you can help or want to support our work in other ways!

P.S. We are still welcoming donations of yarn and knitting materials. If you have any to spare, please drop them off at Asylum Welcome’s office during our opening hours (Mon – Fri, 9.30am – 4pm).

Unpicking the threads of government policy is not easy but it is vital for us to understand the latest developments in order to support our clients as well as to continue our constant advocacy for a more compassionate society, never losing sight of the fact that people can always be better than their governments.

Below, our Policy and Advocacy Coordinator, Hari Reed, reflects on the ongoing legal challenge to the cruel Rwanda policy.

What did we learn from the Rwanda court case? 

by Dr Hari Reid

Asylum Welcome staff joined protesters outside the Royal Courts of Justice supporting the legal challenge to the Rwanda plan.

A five-day hearing into the Rwanda policy took place from Monday 5th – Friday 11th September. We demonstrated outside the Royal Courts of Justice on Monday to show our opposition to the policy. The hearing revealed a number of highly concerning issues which, until now, were not made public.

The government’s own experts repeatedly found Rwanda to be an unsuitable country for offshoring asylum seekers. They cited ‘extrajudicial killings; the recruitment of refugees to conduct armed operations in neighbouring countries, including children aged 15-17 to fight across Rwanda’s border in the east of the Democratic Republic of the Congo’ and ‘a red traffic-light rating in relation to human rights.’ Investigations found evidence of torture and disappearances, and the UNHCR ‘identified a 100% refusal rate for Afghan, Syrian and Yemeni cases.’

The hearing revealed that ‘Rwanda was not on the shortlist of seven countries with which to further explore the plans [for offshoring]. Indeed, it was on a separate list of 14 countries to not do a deal with.’ The revelations from this case have reinforced what we already knew: that the Rwanda offshoring policy cannot go ahead. We expect to hear the results of this case in couple of months’ time.

The next court hearing is on 10 October. For the latest developments, follow our friends at @DetentionAction, @pcs_union & @Care4Calais.

Upcoming events

800 St Edward’s pupils starting the Steeplechase race on 29 September 2022 in St Edward’s grounds.

We are incredibly grateful to all community organisations, schools, churches, village halls, local refugee support groups and neighbour groups across Oxfordshire doing everything they can to help raise awareness, make refugees feel welcomed and supported and raise funds to support our work through a broad range of very creative, fun and engaging events. Below we invite you to attend and support some of these upcoming events in October being organised by groups as diverse as Oxford Contemporary Music, Old Fire Station, Abingdon and District Twin Towns Society, amongst others.

But first, we would like to say a Huge Thank You to St Edward’s School, who chose Asylum Welcome as their Charity of the Year in 2022 and have been fantastically generous supporting refugees and asylum seekers in Oxford over the last several years. An important part of the St Edward’s School ethos is that their pupils get to know and contribute to their local community. Through their partnerships and service programme they create opportunities for meaningful and mutually beneficial connections between St Edward’s and other local schools and charitable organisations, Asylum Welcome amongst them.

Pupils, parents and staff have bought and distributed personally over 500 Christmas gifts to our most vulnerable clients across the city, they have opened their doors so that Afghans, Ukrainians and all our clients can have access to their facilities, have organized sporting activities, including football and cricket matches with our clients playing with their pupils in their fields, are providing English lessons and have raised a huge amount of funds very much needed to support Asylum Welcome during these most challenging of times. Most recently, at their wonderful annual Steeplechase event on 29th September, the Teddies raised a whooping £22,000!

Pupils at St Edward’s Steeplechase.

Amia Guha (AW Student Ambassador/volunteer), Alastair Chirnside (St Edward’s Warden), Rachel Moffatt (St Edward’s Partnerships Manager) and Gilberto Estrada Harris.

To everyone at St Edward’s: Thank You!

‘Beyond the Pale’
The Proscholium, in Oxford
17 September – 6 November 2022.

For more info visit Bodleian Libraries

Corinne Welch’s wonderful scroll will be displayed as part of the ‘Beyond the Pale’ exhibition at the Old Bodleian Library.
Twin Towns Charity Music Concert
Amey Theatre, Abingdon
7 October 2022, 6:30pm

Abingdon and District Twin Towns Society is organising a wonderful Music Concert in aid of charities, Asylum Welcome and Ukrainian refugees.

Tickets: £10, £5 concessions, £20 family.
Bar and refreshments.

For tickets, click here (or poster below)

Dido’s Bar | Dash Arts
27 – 29 October 2022

Ticket prices: £10, £18, £26 plus Pay What You Decide (PWYD) online through Oxford Contemporary Music, or in person through Old Fire Station Oxford.

Aeneas walks into a bar on his first night in Oxford: a refugee forced to leave his homeland. He finds himself in Dido’s Bar, where the House Band play jazz and folk influenced by their own cultures. Spotted by bar owner Venus, Aeneas is pulled onto the stage and so begins a story of love, jealousy and ambition.

Sit at a table and watch the story unfolding all around you as the OVADA Warehouse is transformed into Dido’s Bar: a cabaret-style venue at the edge of town. The international cast draw from their own heritage to inspire the music: the tar and tanbour of Persian classical and Kurdish folk music, Arabic and Berber singing styles, Finnish folk songs and a Western jazz trio of keys, drums and bass.

Dido’s Bar is an epic retelling of Virgil’s Aeneid, one of the world’s oldest myths of migration and the founding of Europe, Aeneas “made a refugee by fate” flees war-torn Troy (in modern day Turkey) to find a home in Italy. Facing resistance from humans and manipulation from Goddesses Juno and Venus, he ends up founding the Kingdom that would become Rome.

Retold for the 21st century through the eyes of refugees today, the show is inspired by Director Josephine Burton’s encounter with Kurdish Iranian refugee and now Finnish resident Composer, Marouf Majidi.

Oxford Contemporary Music will be raising funds for Asylum Welcome through the ‘last night party’ event, which will be a performance from the Starling Sessions project.

For tickets and more information, click here: Dido’s Bar | Dash Arts


We need your support more than ever!
There are many ways you can help Asylum Welcome:
  • Make a donation here.
  • There will be lots of activity around the Coalition to Keep Campsfield Closed over the next few months. If you would like to keep up-to-date about Campsfield-related news and campaigns, please email confirming that you want to be added to that mailing list.
  • We are desperately in need of food bank donations. Please donate food if you can by writing to:
  • We urgently need laptops and tablets to support clients’ home learning and to help them to stay connected. Please visit our Laptop Project for more info and email if you can donate one.
  • We also urgently need bicycles. Cycling empowers asylum seekers and refugees to travel freely and independently, in an environmentally friendly way. Please visit our Bike Project and Sanctuary Wheels project in collaboration with Cyclox and Active Oxfordshire; for more info and/or if you can donate one email
  • Become a member.
  • Simply share this newsletter with your friends and family!