Oxfordshire County Council leader Ian Hudspeth has said he is ‘shocked and saddened’ by the refugee crisis in Europe.
It is estimated more than 300,000 men, women and children have fled wartorn countries such as Syria and Iraq as a result of ongoing civil war in the Middle East.
And with widespread coverage of the movements into Europe reported in the news, councillor Hudspeth has released a statement on the issue.
He said: “Like everyone in Oxfordshire, I have been shocked and saddened by the images we have seen of refugees fleeing brutal regimes such as Syria, where civil war is raging.
“After the prime minister announced that Britain would need to accept more refugees from Syria, the county council has been talking to partner agencies to see what we can do together.
“I have now held two meetings of councils, health and other local agencies to consider our response. We have written to the SE Strategic Partnership for Migration for the Home Office, seeking a scoping meeting at the earliest opportunity.
“From a county council perspective, our priority is safeguarding children and providing support to families in need. We currently have around 80 unaccompanied asylum seeker children and young people – more than double the number we had last year.
“Clearly the prime minster is right when he says helping orphaned and vulnerable children is the priority.
“The children’s services team is in the process of making sure we can respond to more arriving in the county. It is both our legal and moral duty to make sure that refugee children are looked after and kept safe, and the county council will always meet those duties.
“I fully support the government’s stance on the refugee crisis – we need an urgent humanitarian response, while keeping in mind the need for long-term solutions that reduce incentives for people to leave their country.
“We need to help people in danger, but avoid doing anything that encourages more people to make the dangerous journey towards Europe.
“I know there are many strong and active community and faith groups, as well as many individuals, in Oxfordshire who also may want to be part of the county-wide response.
“If you would like to help, there are several groups registering volunteers and offers help – please do get in touch with them.”