May 22, 2011

Cuts preventing refugees from integrating, says Scottish study

Refugees will face higher levels of poverty, unemployment and destitution because government cuts will prevent people from integrating into British society, a report published on Tuesday will warn.

A study by the Scottish Refugee Council has found that refugees remain one of the most marginalised groups.

Funding by the United Kingdom Border Agency (UKBA) to help refugees integrate will cease in September and the SRC says that grassroots provisions across the UK could be badly affected.

The report has found that only 13% of refugees were in full employment and that less than 1% of those in work earned more than £15,000 a year.

Language services could also be affected at a time when the government is demanding that immigrants learn English in order to integrate. In a controversial speech in April the prime minister David Cameron said that immigrants unable to speak English or unwilling to integrate have created a "kind of discomfort and disjointedness" that has disrupted communities across Britain.

The SRC said that the spate of coalition cutbacks contradicts a 2010 Home Office study which acknowledged that refugees require practical help to integrate. During 2010 the charity's Refugee Integration and Employment Service (RIES) helped 410 refugees to get into education and work. The SRC said it would continue to support people but would have to explore different sources of funding and it called on the government to rethink its strategy.

John Wilkes, chief executive of the SRC, said: "Our study shows a clear need for dedicated support on integration from all levels of government in order to help refugees rebuild their lives here. The UK Border Agency, run from Westminster, has pulled funding for RIES from September 2011, despite indicating in its own research that integration assistance is vitally important to refugees. On a wider scale, cuts to the voluntary sector mean many grassroots services working to help refugees and local communities integrate have been restricted. Scotland has already made great strides to help refugees integrate from the moment they arrive. We now want to see the Scottish government revisit their strategy for integration in light of our findings, as well as in light of UK-wide cuts."

Of 249 people interviewed by the SRC over a two-year period, only 32 said they were in full time employment and less than 6% said they were living "comfortably". Isolation was a major problem with more than a third of respondents saying they had little or no contact with neighbours and 71% said they had suffered discrimination in Britain.

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