Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Refugees Welcome?

A major new report from a group of MPs and Lords has found that some refugees in the UK face homelessness and destitution because of the way the system operates.

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The All Party Parliamentary Group on Refugees – which heard evidence from STAR – is now calling for a national refugee integration strategy and a Minister for refugees.

It says such moves would offer support with the challenges refugees face here and help integration into communities.

The Parliamentary Group carried out the extensive research in order to uncover to what extent refugees are welcome in the UK and what happens when granted refugee status.

As well as written and oral evidence STAR also brought three refugee spokespersons before the Group in Parliament. The inquiry received nearly a hundred pieces of written evidence, held four evidence sessions and travelled to Bristol and Nottingham.

Members discovered that in many parts of the UK refugees are being welcomed and welcomed successfully.

Yet the Group were also concerned by what they see as a two tier system of support which leaves many newly recognised refugees at risk of homelessness and destitution.

This is because people granted refugee status after going through the asylum process receive less support than refuges brought to the UK through the government’s Vulnerable People Resettlement Programme.

In practice this often means asylum seekers are at risk of being left homeless and living hand to mouth because of a 28 day cut off period after which state support is withdrawn once refugee status is confirmed.

The report states that ‘throughout our inquiry we were told by refugees and organisations that support them that the 28-day period – known as the ‘move on’ period – is too short.’

Labour MP Thangam Debbonaire, who chairs the Group said: “A refugee is a refugee however they were granted status.

“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.”

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This was echoed by David Burrowes, the Conservative vice-chair: “for too many refugees, being granted their status is the beginning of a period characterised by homelessness and destitution. Protection must mean more than just a piece of paper”, he said.

The panel also criticised ‘drastic’ cuts in funding for English language courses and said there was a “regrettable” lack of a strategy to integrate refugees in the UK.

In its evidence STAR said ‘university helps refugees to integrate into UK life by providing a safe, empowering environment where refugees can make friends, learn new skills and rebuild their lives; all of which enable positive integration into British society.

‘University also provides stability which can mitigate the negative effects of traumatic experiences.’

The politicians were keen to point out that refugees face many challenges and barriers but recognised their determination and willingness to contribute to society through skills, qualifications, experience and knowledge.

Crucially they also called for ‘joined up policies across government departments’ and all levels of Government. This, they said, would benefit refugees and save money in the longer term, while helping to foster community understanding.

You can read the full report here: https://www.refugeecouncil.org.uk/assets/0004/0316/APPG_on_Refugees_-_Refugees_Welcome_report.pdf

Posted by STAR team on 26/04/2017 at 04:22 PM