Refugee Council and Personnel Today call on Government to cut the red tape and help employers access much needed skills

20 Nov 2001

Refugee Council statement

Nine out of 10 employers want to take on refugees to meet skills shortages but many are put off by red tape and legal fears, according to new research released today. The joint Personnel Today and Refugee Council research shows that six out of ten of the surveyed organisations are having difficulties filling in job vacancies. But many of the 255 employers surveyed who have tried to employ refugees or asylum seekers claim that they face confusing Home Office paperwork and verification problems with applicants' qualifications and work experience. Nearly half cited government red tape as a major obstacle. Only 2% felt that refugees and asylum seekers had insufficient skills.

Seven out of 10 employers in the research fear breaking the law when employing a refugee. Yet the Refugee Council survey of over 150 refugees and asylum seekers in the UK shows that most refugees are well qualified and keen to work, with 27.5% having a university degree. Despite this, over 60% of refugees and asylum seekers have been unemployed for between six months to three years while a further 25% remain unemployed for over three years.

Nick Hardwick, Chief Executive of the Refugee Council said:
"This timely research confirms what we repeatedly see in our work with refugees and asylum seekers. That many are highly qualified and experienced and often have the skills desperately needed in the UK. Recent reports have shown how the UK skills shortage is having a significant impact on productivity, costing the country billions. Personnel Today's survey proves that employers want to access these skills as much as refugees themselves are eager to work. 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.

"A targeted and coordinated strategy could stop employers being deprived of the skills they desperately need as well as prevent asylum seekers and refugees from being denied opportunities to make a valuable contribution to this country. 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.

"From the invention of the Mini car, contraceptive pill and Einstein's theory of relativity, history has repeatedly shown just how much refugees have culturally, economically and scientifically enriched the UK."

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. The results of the two joint surveys will be published in Personnel Today on Tuesday 20 November.

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.

Personnel Today contact: Noel O'Reilly, Editor of Personnel Today, Tel 020 8652 3946

Links

Personnel Today's website: http://www.personneltoday.com

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