Looking at the experiences of Eritreans who came to the UK independently – as opposed to via Government funded resettlement schemes – the research explored what it is like to be a newly recognised refugee in the UK through the lens of the Eritrean community.
This research adds to the growing body of evidence surrounding these issues and specifically highlights the following problems and solutions:
- The Eritrean refugees we spoke with had experienced significant trauma – either in Eritrea or on their journey to the UK, and often both – and were given inadequate support when first granted asylum. The 28 day ‘move on’ period was not enough time to find accommodation and financial support and this needs to be extended. Without this extension, refugees are at real risk of homelessness and destitution;
- Education and integration go hand in hand but newly recognised refugees find it very hard to access support with their English language skills. To address this, there must be an increase in the number of fully-funded English language course hours for refugees, as well as child support to enable refugees to actually attend classes;
- Jobcentre Plus is not properly equipped to provide refugees with employment advice, with people being pressured to take jobs that are not suitable for newly recognised refugees. Eritreans face particular barriers given their inability to obtain their work certificates from their home country. The DWP must provide staff with specialist training to enable them to cater to the needs of refugees so that they can stand a chance at finding work;
- There remains a clear ‘two-tier’ system which treats refugees unequally; while those who have arrived here via resettlement are given extensive and dedicated support, those who arrived here independently are all but left alone and expected to fend for themselves;
- Refugees are survivors of conflict and persecution and very often have health needs. It is vital they know their rights to access healthcare but so often are left in the dark. We urge the Home Office and Department of Health to inform refugees about their rights and support their access to healthcare;
- Refugees suffer at the hands of overly restrictive UK refugee family reunion rules which prevent them from being reunited with the family members they desperately miss and need. The Home Office must allow for a wider and fairer definition of family members and the Ministry of Justice must re-introduce legal aid for these cases, so that refugees who have lost everything can afford to apply to be joined by loved ones;
- Isolation can be serious issue for refugees when they are first granted asylum. We urge the Home Office to identify those people who have early integration challenges and refer them to local groups and NGOs for support immediately.
Commenting on these findings, Dr Lisa Doyle, Director of Advocacy at the Refugee Council, said: “The day someone who has fled war and persecution is told they are allowed to stay in the UK as a refugee should be a day full of joy and relief. Unfortunately it is often the case that the opposite is true.
“As this research highlights, time and again refugees face problems that are the direct consequence of Government policies serving to make life more challenging for them. Problems like not knowing where their next meal is coming from, or if they will have roof over their head. At precisely the point when the Government should be doing all in its power to help and support the very people they have promised to protect, all support falls away and they are left facing the real prospect of homelessness and destitution.
“The Government should heed our recommendations as a matter of urgency.”
You can read the full report here.