Child refugees in county double

Oxfordshire County Council is urging residents to consider fostering child refugees as they reveal the number has doubled in the past year.

There are 51 unaccompanied asylum seeker children in Oxfordshire under the council’s care – around double from this time last year.

It comes as rumours that Syrian refugees could be flown to RAF Brize Norton near Carterton were denied by the airbase on Tuesday.

County council spokesman Owen Morton said: “The total is around twice the figure of a year ago – though there is nothing to suggest Oxfordshire is in any way noteworthy in terms of rising numbers, which have been seen in recent months across many parts of the country.

“The council seeks to find suitable placements for all unaccompanied asylum seeker children in line with its statutory duty to provide care for this group of children.”

Of the 51, 17 are from Eritrea, in Africa, 16 are from Albania, 12 are from Afghanistan, three are from Egypt, one is from Iraq, one from, Ethiopia, and one is from Vietnam. None are currently from Syria.

Asylum Welcome charity, based in Newtec Place in Magdalen Road, works with between 80 and 100 unaccompanied children, or those who were children when they arrived.

Director Kate Smart said: “The main thing that we believe needs to be done to improve their situation is for the Home Office to give their asylum claims a more sympathetic hearing.

“We see many young people who, once they are 18 or 19, are told they must return to their own country and all support for them in the UK, including accommodation, is removed.

“Often they have no family remaining in their country and only a hazy memory of life there, and they have no means of supporting themselves. This includes young people from Afghanistan and Iraq.”

Asylum Welcome also runs a youth club for refugee children once a week and provides help to youngsters arriving in the country alone.

Mr Morton added: “As with most children in the council’s care, that means finding local foster homes from the council’s pool of registered foster carers, or where this is not possible, seeking placements with external fostering agencies.

Prime Minister David Cameron announced earlier this month Britain would welcome 20,000 refugees from camps in Syria by 2020.