AN UNPRECEDENTED 12 months of activity supporting refugees has paid off for an Oxford charity going into its 21st year in its strongest ever position.

Staff and volunteers at Asylum Welcome faced a tidal wave of both support from the public and requests for help as the refugee crisis unfolded last summer.

But an increase in both manpower and donations has meant the Magdalen Road charity has both doubled its reserves and supported a record number of people.

Adult services co-ordinator Almas Farsi, better known as Navid, said: "Last year was a tough and challenging year for all refugee organisations.

"When watching the suffering of fellow human beings, particularly children, the elderly and women, we felt hopeless and lost but we stood together.

"People in this part of the country share a vision in welcoming those who flee persecution and violence to rebuild their life and progress."

In September last year images of the ongoing humanitarian disaster on European shores, including that of the drowned three-year-old Syrian boy Aylan Kurdi washed up on a beach in Turkey, had just begun to enter the public conscience and 2,000 people attended a Refugees Welcome demonstration in Oxford.

Over the next year Asylum Welcome's income increased by six per cent from £223,000 to £326,000 mainly from trusts, foundations, individual donations and legacies.

Its reserve funds "for a rainy day" have jumped from £58,000 in March 2015 to £116,000 in March 2016 and volunteer numbers are also up from 120 to 150.

Director Kate Smart said: "We have been inundated with calls from the public offering to help and donate, and take people into their homes. We have never been so busy.

"The increase in donations is a sign that Asylum Welcome is becoming a more substantial organisation."

Asylum Welcome offers a point of contact for refugees and asylum seekers in need of housing, career advice, English lessons, IT help and legal support.

The total number of people it helped in Oxfordshire jumped from 847 in 2014/15 to 1,029 in 2015/16, of whom 88 were unaccompanied young people.

The weekly youth club also continues to thrive with an average of 30 people attending each week.

Speaking at the charity's AGM last week, youth service co-ordinator Helena Cullen recalled a recent trip to Oxford Ice Rink with about 10 new arrivals.

She said: "The young people we meet arriving here come with so many aspirations and all they want to do is make the most of their opportunities.

"It was amazing to see them clinging onto the side, then confidently skating around at the end."