More needs to be done to help refugees

Dr Duncan Sim at a meeting to discuss the report which was funded by the UWS-Oxfam Partnership.
Dr Duncan Sim at a meeting to discuss the report which was funded by the UWS-Oxfam Partnership.

Female refugees who arrived in Motherwell in 2007 say more needs to be done to help them into employment and to access education

The findings come as part of a new study from the University of the West of Scotland (UWS) looking at the long-term integration of Congolese refugees.

It follows on from a 2008 report to North Lanarkshire Council examining how they had settled in since arriving the previous year and is the first time such a follow-up has been carried out in the UK.

The report also shows fresh support is required to help all refugees demonstrate work-based skills, a lack of skilled jobs has left many families struggling to get by and accessing services such as education and healthcare is too complex.

Co-author Dr Duncan Sim, recently retired Reader in Sociology at UWS who also wrote the original report, said: “The services offered were generally well received but we found women weren’t able to access the same services and found it harder to fit in than men.

“A lack of available childcare and English classes and limited opportunities for employment and socialising means some women sit in the house all day as they feel they cannot integrate.

“There is a clear need to establish a befriender scheme to provide this support and help women make friends locally.”

Finding jobs was difficult for all refugees, with many feeling employment agencies aren’t offering fair access to permanent positions or skilled work.

Dr Sim added: “There is a problem with proving abilities as refugees don’t have paperwork to prove qualifications.

“A work shadowing scheme would be an obvious solution to this, allowing refugees to demonstrate their skills as well as learning how to adapt them for a new country.”

Some refugees felt rushed into houses and jobs after being relocated, but praised locals for helping them settle.

Dr Sim said: “The Congolese refugees came to Scotland in difficult circumstances, often losing or being separated from friends and family.

“Some felt they didn’t have time to wipe away the tears before starting new jobs and learning about their new home.

“That said, many said they felt welcomed by the people of Motherwell, who have on the whole been friendly and supportive.”