Put figures in context and stop costly waste of untapped skills, urges Refugee Council

29 Nov 2001

Refugee Council statement

On the eve of the asylum quarterly statistics publication (30 November), Nick Hardwick, Chief Executive of the Refugee Council, is calling for any figures to be understood in their proper context: most refugees remain in neighbouring poor countries and only a tiny percentage make it to the UK. The recent trend has seen a slight drop in numbers applying for asylum in this country.

He is also urging the Government to address the fact that refugees and asylum seekers could do much to solve the problems employers face in terms of skills shortages.

Nick Hardwick said: "Last year's annual figures showed the highest asylum claims (around 5,000) came from Afghans. The spotlight on this country has generated a wider understanding of why someone might be forced to leave their home in search of safety. Over four million refugees from Afghanistan fled to Iran and Pakistan with only a tiny percentage making it to the UK. According to the most recent UNHCR statistics, Britain ranks 78th in the world in terms of the number of refugees it supports as a proportion of its national wealth with the poorest countries taking the biggest responsibility. Sierra Leone's refugee 'burden' is 5,000 times that of the UK, when compared to its national wealth."

He added: "On top of putting the new figures into their proper context, we also need to make use of the untapped asset asylum seekers and refugees represent. The joint research we just completed with Personnel Today shows that nine out of 10 employers want to take on refugees and asylum seekers to meet skills shortages and that this group of potential employees have significantly higher than average qualifications." Despite this, there is still a disproportionately high level of unemployment amongst refugees and asylum seekers. Six out of 10 employers surveyed are having difficulties filling in job vacancies. A third of employers had tried to recruit refugees or asylum seekers but found the complicated process too much of a barrier.

"Other reports have repeatedly shown how the UK skills shortage is having a significant impact on productivity, costing the country billions. It is in the best interests of UK businesses, refugees themselves and the national economy to put these skills to good use and stop this sheer waste.

"We strongly urge the Government to set up a national skills database for refugees and asylum seekers eligible to work and seriously take on board tactics which will start to cut down the red tape."

Noel O'Reilly, editor of Personnel Today said: "Employers want to take refugees on and refugees want jobs. It is time the Government acts to marry the two."

Notes to Editors:

1. Personnel Today surveyed 255 employers, 40% of whom employ over 1000 personnel. The Refugee Council surveyed over 150 refugees and asylum seekers. Read a press release about the survey.

2. The survey is part of Personnel Today's campaign, Refugees into Employment which has been running for six months. Personnel Today wants the Government to make a commitment to producing a standard permission to work document; reduce red tape preventing refugees entitled to work from gaining employment, adopt a skills database for refugees and asylum seekers and produce plans to coordinate the employment of refugees and asylum seekers.

3.View the latest Home Office quarterly statistics bulletin at http://www.homeoffice.gov.uk/rds/pdfs/asylumq301.pdf

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