CALLS have been made for Oxford University to ‘do more’ to help house asylum seekers and refugees, particularly those seeking sanctuary from Afghanistan.

Asylum Welcome, an organisation that supports asylum seekers, refugees, and vulnerable migrants living in Oxfordshire, held a meeting with local organisations, councillors, and MP representatives, to discuss what people in Oxfordshire can do to support Afghan people fleeing the Taliban.

Many of those fleeing Afghanistan arrive at RAF Brize Norton in the West of the county.

During the meeting, Isabel Tate, chair of KAMA Oxford, an organisation that helps asylum seekers share their skills with the local community, asked that given Oxford University’s ‘vast estate’, whether it could help house those seeking asylum.

Ms Tate said: “The university has huge amounts of property and land in Oxford, and over the last year it has been empty because students have not been here.

“But even if the students are all back when term starts, I don’t think all their property is being used at all times.

“So, especially as a short-term place for anybody to stay, it seems a waste to me that it’s empty and there are people who are homeless.”

Last week the Government announced that it would take in 20,000 refugees from Afghanistan over the next five years – amounting to seven refugees per constituency.

She added: “I just feel that it can do so much more.

“We can all do so much more, but as individuals, it’s harder to make an actual impact than it is when we all stand together.”

Almas Farzi, director of services at Asylum Welcome, said: “Students have always played a major role in raising public awareness, in terms of standing up for human rights, refugee rights and particularly for asylum rights.

“That is what the student union and students are about – what brings them together is their heart and brain for human rights.”

Mr Farzi added, however, that as the university has ‘massive’ amounts of land and accommodation, it should ask what it can do to support the council to house more refugees and asylum seekers in the county.

Speaking at the meetingWill Side, controlling migration fund programme coordinator at Oxford City Council, said that discussions with the university on the matter was an ‘avenue’ to pursue in order ‘to see if there were any offers’.

Jess Wallis, a final year Oxford student at Worcester College and president of STAR, a student organisation helping refugees thrive in the UK, also called on the university’s support.

She said: “The university has such a vast amount of land and accommodation in Oxford. They can have a really big part in helping with refugees and they have the ability to do it.

“But a lot of that comes from the students lobbying and placing pressure on the university.”

Oxfordshire County Council and Oxford City Council have not yet been informed by the Government how many Afghan refugees will be housed in the county over the next few years.

Hosnieh Djafair Marbini, city councillor for Northfield Brook, and the council’s Migrant Champion said: “This is a fast-evolving humanitarian crisis. Oxford is a city of sanctuary with two recently recognised University colleges of Sanctuary.

“Many organisations, and individuals in our city would like to see us do all we can to support our Afghans residents, and all those fleeing heart-breaking violence.

“There’s a huge housing need within our city and the university should play its part in meeting this need for all of our communities and residents and this crisis is no exception.”

Oxford University has been contacted for a statement.