A YOUNG family in Oxford who took in a refugee have said it was “the best decision we ever made”.

Nicola and Tim Smith, of Bayswater Farm Road, Barton, welcomed Peyman Ismaeli, 24, into their home three weeks ago.

They were contacted by refugee charity Asylum Welcome, which has supported the young man since he first fled Iran aged 17.

Mrs Smith, 32, said: “It was a case of clearing out the shelves – no great shakes in terms of providing a home for someone. And it was the best decision we ever made.”

Mr Ismaeli left Iran after his father, a known opposer of the ruling regime, was arrested and disappeared.

He was smuggled out of the country to Turkey and made his way to the UK hidden in lorries. On arrival he turned himself in to police.

After living with nuns in Iffley Road for six years, Mr Ismaeli lived on the streets after the group closed its doors. Asylum Welcome’s Judy Potts, a friend of the family, suggested he stay with them. The couple also have a 14-month-old baby girl Jodi.

Mrs Smith added: “He has become one of the family. He helps tidy up after our baby has played with her toys, has breakfast with us and helps feed her, and walks the dog.”

Although the Smiths are Christians and Mr Ismaeli is a Muslim, there have been no problems with a cultural divide.

Mrs Smith said: “If we were in opposite situations, he’s just the kind of guy that would have opened up his home to us.”

Now studying English at City of Oxford College, Mr Ismaeli wants to become an engineer and is likely to stay with the Smiths until at least January.

He volunteers at Asylum Welcome, in Magdalen Road, three days a week.

He said: “The Smiths are like my family.

“When I finish studying I hope to do something for this country or for Oxford, because as soon as I came here I loved Oxford.”

Asylum Welcome’s Judy Potts said: “We would love to see more families like the Smiths. If people have rooms in Oxford, we need them to come forward.”

Up to 2,000 people turned out for the protest on Sunday to show their support for welcoming refugees into the city.

Yesterday, Prime Minister David Cameron said Britain would take 20,000 additional Syrian refugees over and above any existing schemes.

Oxford City Council leader Bob Price said: “There are no free council houses in Oxford, so our main role in this has to be facilitating access to the private renting sector.

“We must also help coordinate support to those coming in, meaning we will have to work closely with other agencies like the social services.

“That support is going to need Government funding and could range from providing them with blankets to helping schools, who may have four or five refugee children added to their classes.”

The council is to meet charity bosses this week to discuss how it can help.

More details on offering a home at asylumwelcome.org or oxford.cityofsanctuary.org/host-oxford