Scottish Refugee Council calls for more support for refugees to contribute to life in Scotland

Scottish Refugee Council calls today [Tuesday 24 May] for more support for refugees to rebuild their lives and contribute to Scotland.

The call comes as the charity releases results of the first stage in a major three-year study on how well people who have fled persecution from countries such as Iraq, Afghanistan and the Democratic Republic of Congo are integrating into Scottish life.

Refugees' views on living in Scotland

The first stage of the study asked 262 refugees who had arrived in Scotland from 37 different countries between 1998 and 2010 to fill in an in-depth questionnaire.  While respondents expressed their happiness at being able to live in safety, the findings show significant barriers to refugees being able to rebuild their lives in Scotland.

Only 20 per cent were in paid employment, despite having many skills and a desire to work, with over 68 per cent saying they were struggling to cope financially. Over 70 per cent said they had been discriminated against.

However, the study also shows that many refugees are optimistic about being in Scotland despite the problems they face. Around 70 per cent said they were either happy or very happy here.

Government support needed on integration

John Wilkes, Chief Executive of Scottish Refugee Council, said the study showed a clear need for dedicated support on integration, from all levels of government – in order to help refugees fulfil the contributions they were so keen to make to Scottish life.  

‘The UK Border Agency, run from Westminster, has pulled funding for its Refugee Integration and Employment Service from September 2011, despite indicating in its own research that integration assistance is vitally important to refugees.

‘In his first speech of the new Scottish parliament, Alex Salmond restated his commitment to welcoming those who have fled persecution. ‘Scotland has already made great strides to help refugees integrate from the moment they arrive. We now want to see the Scottish Government revisit their strategy for integration in light of our findings, as well as in light of UK-wide cuts.

‘As we gear up to Refugee Week, which kicks off a month from today, we celebrate the contribution refugees from across the decades have made to Scotland and the UK. Let’s ensure today’s refugees are able to fulfil their own hopes and dreams, too.’

For interviews and a full copy of the report contact Clare Harris, Media and Communications Officer, on 0141 223 7927, 07850 930418 or email media@scottishrefugeecouncil.org.uk

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Notes to Editors:

The Scottish Refugee Council Integration Study runs for three years and will provide better information and understanding of the lives of refugees and people seeking asylum in Scotland. The research covers many different areas of life in Scotland, including health, education, communities, employment and housing.

The project uses mixed methods and is supported by an Advisory Group of academics, the voluntary sector and statutory authorities. The work is supported by the Big Lottery Fund.

Statistics show:

  • 68.4% of respondents were finding it difficult or very difficult to cope financially.
  • 68.1% had no family members living in Scotland
  • 71.6% said they had been discriminated against in Britain
  • 40.8% felt part of their local community
  • 47% said they felt safe in their community
  • 70.68% said they felt happy or very happy with life in Britain

Comments made by refugees responding to the first-stage questionnaire include:

‘Integrating people is more than just relocating them, it should be about educating them and helping them to contribute their values in a positive way within their communities through engagement irrespective of their status’       

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     ‘Integration is highly important and vital for refugees, and we need to be encouraged to integrate by education or working or volunteering or social activities or others. Having said that, integration is also important to the British people because we all live together…  they also need to be encouraged to integrate with us.’    

‘Government and local authorities should do more to achieve or to encourage immigrants to feel more integrated’                

The Scottish Refugee Council research references a Home Office study on integration, Helping new refugees integrate into the UK: baseline data analysis from the Survey of New Refugees (July 2010)

Scottish Refugee Council provides help and advice to those who have fled human rights abuses or other persecution in their homeland and now seek refuge in Scotland.

We are a membership organisation that works independently and in partnership with others to provide support to refugees from arrival to settlement and integration into Scottish society. We campaign to ensure that the UK Government meets its international, legal and humanitarian obligations and to raise awareness of refugee issues.

For more information see www.scottishrefugeecouncil.org.uk

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