A landmark cross-party report has found that Government policies are creating a costly “two-tier system” of refugee protection leaving many homeless and destitute, seriously damaging their prospects of integration.
‘Refugees Welcome?’ released today by the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Refugees, which the Refugee Council provides the secretariat for, found that refugees want to contribute their skills and talents to the UK, but face a number of barriers.
The MPs’ report follows a research report produced by the Refugee Council last year which uncovered similar problems.
While the APPG’s report praises the dedicated support refugees arriving in the UK through one of the Government-led resettlement programmes receive, it finds that people whose refugee status is granted following an asylum claim are left to rely on charities and local individuals.
Delays and confusion about important paperwork from Government departments; a cliff-edge of support following a positive decision on refugee status; patchy English language provision; and a lack of employment and skills support are all found to prevent many refugees integrating successfully.
The Chair of the APPG, Thangam Debbonaire MP, described the disparity as a “costly missed opportunity for Britain”.
Ahead of the General Election, the report recommends the incoming Government provides support to all refugees so that they can fulfil their potential and contribute to the UK. It recommends:
- The creation of a National Refugee Integration Strategy, to be overseen by a specially appointed cross-departmental Government Minister for Refugees.
- More than doubling the so-called move on period from Home Office support, the time given to newly recognised refugees to find new accommodation after they receive a positive decision on their status. The current 28-day period often results in destitution for newly recognised refugees in the UK currently.
- Providing extra support for newly recognised refugees and streamlining the process by which new refugees are assigned National Insurance Numbers and identity documents.
- Extra funding for English language classes.
Commenting, Thangam Debbonaire, Labour MP for Bristol West and Chair of the APPG, 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.”
Responding to the report, Refugee Council Chief Executive Maurice Wren said: “It’s unacceptable that the Government treats refugees unequally by offering a relative few the necessary help and support they need to integrate into British life, while simultaneously consigning another much larger group to the high risk of homelessness, hunger and despair.
“These are people who have fled the same bombs and the same bullets; it’s vital the Government recognises that they need the same support to begin rebuilding their lives.”
The APPG has released the report after nine months’ evidence gathering, including oral evidence sessions in Parliament and visits to Nottingham and Bristol, and more than 100 written submissions from refugees, agencies, local authorities, housing associations and other groups.