Economic and Social Research Council
Refugees in UK face huge long-term disadvantages
Refugees who resettle in Britain after fleeing violence and torture face huge long-term inequalities including over work and education, according to a new report.
Research by the University of Sussex highlights how employment rates for them are less than half those for other people in the UK.
This is despite the Home Office selecting these highly vulnerable refugees to live here because they need support.
The study A Long-term Commitment, funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), warns that being jobless is a major barrier to integration.
A lack of targeted support has left those without education and English language skills struggling to make new lives here, according to the report.
A Long-term Commitment is the first study to investigate the resettlement of people up to a decade after arriving in this country.
The findings are based on a survey of nearly 300 refugees, including those who have spent years living in camps. They present a concerning picture of the inequalities they endure, and how these impact on their lives.
A Long-term Commitment highlights how refugees who arrive with poor or no reading and writing skills are disadvantaged at school. Children aged 13 and above and young adults with little or no prior education lose out especially, says the report.
Many end up unemployed because they fail to gain qualifications, including GCSEs and A Levels. More than half (51%) refugees surveyed also blame discrimination for them being jobless.
The report, which also included interviews and focus groups, urges policy-makers to make a long-term commitment to more effective approaches.
Says lead author Michael Collyer: "The benefits of resettlement are huge for refugees, for communities, and for the UK.
"But our report shows they face huge long-term disadvantages. Education is the key to long-term integration yet many refugees have missed years of schooling.
"This affects their job chances compared to those who've been educated or hold university-level qualifications.
"What's needed is a new approach that goes beyond trying just to fit refugees into existing systems."
The integration of refugees is central to political debates across Europe. Resettled refugees do not have to make their own way to Britain then apply for asylum. Instead, candidates are selected for asylum by officers for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.
The Home Office then decides who to take then automatically grants them refugee status on arrival in the UK.
Through its Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Scheme, the government has committed to resettle 20,000 people by 2020, including those from Syria. Other programmes include the Gateway Resettlement Programme which was the basis for A Long-term Commitment.
Previous research into resettled refugees has followed them up a couple of years after arriving in the UK.
Professor Collyer and his colleagues have gone much further by looking at their integration after four years or more. Their focus has been on refugees living in Greater Manchester, Norwich, Brighton and Hove, and Sheffield.
Education was found to be a major success factor. More than two in five (41%) resettled refugees with a degree got work, compared with just three percent who arrived without formal education.
The report also suggests that being able to speak good English on arrival was a major factor in integration long-term. This skill enabled people to increase their networks among British society the longer they spent in the country.
A link between health and language was even identified, with resettled refugees with poor mental and physical health more likely to have poor English skills.
Refugees are a diverse group, says Professor Collyer, with wide variation in language skills and access to family networks. "Any support must take these different needs into account," he added.
- Stephanie Allen, Media Relations Manager
University of Sussex
Telephone: 01273 873659
Notes for editors
- 'Optimising refugee resettlement in the UK: a comparative analysis' was a five year project funded by ESRC through a research grant of £365,211.
- The Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) is part of UK Research and Innovation, a non-departmental public body funded by a grant-in-aid from the UK government.
- The ESRC is the UK's largest funder of research on the social and economic questions facing us today. It supports the development and training of the UK’s future social scientists and also funds major studies that provide the infrastructure for research. ESRC-funded research informs policymakers and practitioners and helps make businesses, voluntary bodies and other organisations more effective.
- UK Research and Innovation is a new body which works in partnership with universities, research organisations, businesses, charities, and government to create the best possible environment for research and innovation to flourish. We aim to maximise the contribution of each of our component parts, working individually and collectively. We work with our many partners to benefit everyone through knowledge, talent and ideas.
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