Westminster report condemns UK asylum system for ‘loading the dice’ against new refugees

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A landmark report is calling for a UK-wide support system to make sure refugees have the best chance of successfully rebuilding their lives in Scotland and the UK.

‘Refugees Welcome?’ released today by Westminster’s All-party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Refugees, examines how well refugees are integrating into UK society and what barriers are preventing them from doing so.

The report praises Scotland’s Holistic Integration Service, run by Scottish Refugee Council, for providing structured one-to-one support to new refugees on essentials such as learning English and finding jobs. This support is vital if people are to go on to participate successfully in Scottish society.

However, the report also finds that that the asylum system itself is a major barrier to people’s ability to integrate. Many people lose confidence, skills and the chance to contribute and earn a living because of the UK government’s refusal to allow people to work while waiting for a decision on their claim for asylum. Delays in receiving essential documents such as National Insurance Numbers and confusion from UK Government departments about important paperwork are also singled out in the report as preventing many refugees from integrating as successfully as they might.

Wafa Shaheen, Head of Integration at Scottish Refugee Council said:

“The people we work with have so much to offer to Scottish society. We meet refugees every day who are talented, resilient, determined to fit in here and contribute to their new country. But it’s not easy to adapt to a whole new way of life. We work with people to help them develop an action plan for their future in Scotland: where they are going to live, how they are going to support themselves, whether they need training or further education to help them achieve their ambitions. When we do this with people in the early days of receiving refugee status, it makes a huge difference in how much people are able to fulfill their potential further down the line.

“We know our integration service is a lifeline for people who have lost everything and are doing their best to rebuild their lives here. But it can’t be left to the charity sector to fund and deliver this. Everyone benefits from healthy, well-integrated communities and this service must be funded and supported centrally by the state to ensure a continued commitment to this.”

Chair of the APPG, Thangam Debbonaire MP, said:

“A refugee is a refugee however they were granted status. Most will want to return home when conflict is over and in the meantime want to contribute to this country.These are often skilled professionals, and by definition, they all have strength and determination to offer.

“But there are administrative flaws in the system which could be easily fixed. Creating a two-tier system for refugees, loading the dice against people who come here to build a new life, is not just the wrong thing to do but a costly missed opportunity for Britain.

“The UK can learn from the positives examples of the resettlement programme and the Scottish integration scheme to enable refugees to contribute and feel welcomed. Refugees bring so many talents and skills – they just need the opportunities to unlock their potential.”

Last month the Scottish Government announced its commitment to revising and updating its national integration strategy to ensure that all refugees receive integration support in Scotland.

The ‘New Scots’ strategy which ran from 2014 - 2017 was praised in the APPG report for its success in coordinating the efforts of all organisations involved in supporting refugees in Scotland across the devolved competencies of health, housing and education.

Last year Scottish Refugee Council’s integration service supported 567 households with housing, education and employment services, helping them lay the foundations for successful, sustainable lives in Scotland.

The APPG spent nine months gathering more than 100 submissions of evidence on refugee integration from local authorities, housing associations, refugee communities and agencies and other groups for their report

The full report is available here: http://bit.ly/2oTYdi1