A Syrian family who fled their home to escape war have given their heartfelt thanks to the people of Oxford for making them feel so welcome in the city. The family has been supported by Asylum Welcome, one of the charities that received substantial funding from one of OCF’s donors.
Speaking to the Oxford Mail this week, Syrian couple Reema and Maree Almaree told of their ordeal in escaping their home in war-torn Aleppo, and of their surprise and happiness at the welcome they have received in Oxford since they arrived in 2015. Mr Almaree comments: “We still have nightmares. We are safe now but the reality is when we get sent videos and pictures from our relatives still in Aleppo and there is just rubble everywhere we cannot detach ourselves from what is going on.
“I love being here, I do not want to go back to Syria because I feel that I am safe here. We want to thank everyone so much because we feel like we have come home. Everyone has been so welcoming and kind and we were just not used to this and it has made us really happy.”
The family were amongst the first to be brought to Oxford as part of the government’s national resettlement programme, which brings refugees directly from camps in the countries surrounding Syria. Since December 2015, 12 families have been homed in the city, with eight families being settled across the rest of the county.
Local refugee charity Asylum Welcome is instrumental in welcoming families like the Almarees to Oxfordshire. When they arrived, a volunteer from the charity (pictured) met them at the airport, ensured they had secure and welcoming accommodation, and showed them around the city, including showing them how to get around on public transport and registering them with the local GP. Oxford City Council leader Bob Price comments in the Mail: “The support they have given is just fantastic. They are all volunteers and they are the face of Oxford. It has been a very good example of partnerships working between the city council, landlords, the health service and voluntary sectors.”
Along with Host Oxford, Asylum Welcome was one of the charities that benefitted last year from £25,000 of funding from an OCF donor interested in supporting refugees coming to Oxford. The unrestricted infrastructure grant we were able to make provided incredibly valuable support towards the charity’s running costs, enabling them to continue their work welcoming refugees. This focus reflects one of the priorities described in OCF’s Oxfordshire Uncovered report – alleviating loneliness and isolation.