Press Release from Council for Assisting Refugee Academics (CARA) - Refugee Council
March 14, 2005

Press Release from Council for Assisting Refugee Academics (CARA)


Britain is failing to make the most of a wealth of expertise in vital areas of the economy because many highly qualified refugees and asylum seekers are being ignored, warns a leading refugee charity today (Monday).

CARA figures show that it can cost as little as £1,000 to prepare a refugee doctor to practise in UK compared with £250,000 to train a doctor from the outset. Other key professionals such as scientists and engineers can have their skills updated for under £12,000. Often all skilled refugees or asylum seekers need is a little bit of further education or guidance to adapt their qualifications and skills to meet British requirements.

The Council for Assisting Refugee Academics (CARA), backed by the TUC and the Commission for Racial Equality (CRE), today launches a new handbook to advise refugees and other groups who are under represented in further and higher education on how to apply and seek funding for courses in the UK.

At a time when there are shortages in many key areas of the economy, such as engineering, science and the medical profession, many refugees with precisely these skills are unemployed or undertaking unskilled jobs. The new handbook contains specialist advice on how to choose and fund a course and on employment issues, such as working while studying and preparing for full time employment.

John Akker, CARA’s Executive Secretary, said:

“This not only a waste, it is scandal that more is not done, given that
often the applications for support are from people with skills in areas
where we are crying out for key workers. Just a small grant from CARA can change a refugee’s whole life and give the UK a key worker. CARA awards funds for basic items such as fees and travel. However, the charity cannot fund all the applications it receives and many go unsupported. We urgently need greater resources and guidance for refugees to stop pools of talent remaining untapped.”

Frances O’Grady, TUC Deputy General Secretary, said:

“In the high temperature debate around asylum and immigration, the issue of skilled academics and professionals has been missed. It is tragic that so many talented individuals are denied the opportunity to maximise their potential, especially when we are crying out for their skills in so many areas. We need to separate this issue from the hyperbole and urgently reassess how we treat the thousands of people in this country who are forced in to jobs way below their ability.”

Trevor Phillips, Chair of the Commission for Racial Equality, said:

“Refugees have a legal right to live, be educated and work in the UK. And yet refugee communities face appalling levels of unemployment, despite many being highly skilled and possessing high-level qualifications. CARA’s handbook will help refugees negotiate the labyrinth of higher education and will enable people to take up the many opportunities higher education affords.”

Dr Kim Howells, Minister of State for Lifelong Learning, Further and Higher Education says in his foreword to the handbook:

“The UK higher education system is amongst the best in the world. In
2002/2003 some 259,000 people from overseas studied at a UK university or college. Some of those faced particular difficulties – refugees and asylum seekers perhaps more than most… Education plays a major role in helping migrants realise their potential and integrate into UK society. CARA has made an important contribution to bridging the academic and refugee worlds.”



TUC media enquiries: Liz Chinchen T: 020 7467 1248; M: 07778 158175;; Ben Hurley T: 020 7467 1248; Mobile: 07881 622 416; E:

CARA media enquiries and case studies: John Akker T: 020 7021 0882; M: 07816 506 238 E:

Notes to the editor:

The launch of the handbook takes place at the Keyworth Centre, London South Bank University at 12.30pm on Monday 14 March. Jon Snow, Channel 4 News Presenter, will launch the booklet with Trevor Phillips Chair of the Commission for Racial Equality, Frances O’Grady, Deputy General Secretary of the TUC.

Case studies are available of refugees who, with CARA’s help, have become surgeons, GPs, engineers, dentists and scientists. Among the Nobel Prize winners CARA has supported are Max Perutz, Max Born, Hans Krebs, Hans Bethe and Denis Gabor.

CARA awarded grants to 55 refugee academics from such countries as Afghanistan, Burundi, Congo, Ethiopia, Iran, Iraq, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Sudan and Uganda and provided advice and information to over 300 individuals and organisations during the last 12 months.

Copies of the handbook can be obtained from CARA at a price #16.90 (including post and packing). Call 020 7021 0884 or email

Journalists can view an embargoed copy on the TUC press extranet

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