Researchers investigating barriers to education and employment for forced migrants in Wales have now published their findings.
A collaboration between University of South Wales (USW) and the Welsh Refugee Council, the KESS funded project, collected data on refugees from Syria, who are being resettled in convergence areas of Wales.
Led by Dr Mike Chick, USW’s Refugee Champion, the project aimed to illuminate the realities facing people on resettlement programmes in Wales. One of the main aims being to provide a vehicle for refugees’ voices to be heard.
“With rising numbers of people seeking safety comes an increased need for UK Governments to ensure populations live cohesively together, and that new arrivals integrate successfully into established communities.”
The project sought to investigate three key questions:
The key findings identified some of the barriers that resettled families face in accessing effective ESOL (English to Speakers of Other Languages) provision. For example, whilst there was a strong desire to study, the refugees faced discrepancies in the number of hours of classes offered to them between areas, mixed abilities within the same classes prevented effective learning, or they were simply unable to access childcare or fund travel to attend.
In terms of barriers to employment skills and training, the investigation found that the language barrier and lack of understanding of refugees’ skills were, as was the lack of employment advice available. A notable barrier is that of physical and mental health. Unsurprisingly, refugees are typically considered to experience relatively poor health both prior to and post-settlement, compared to people who migrate principally for economic reasons.
Since 2014, Dr Chick has led the innovative collaboration between USW and the Welsh Refugee Council.
Dr Chick also leads the Refugee and Asylum Seeker Sanctuary Scheme at USW, which allows refugees and asylum seekers to access language tuition and language preparation before starting their degree – something that isn’t offered by any other university in Wales.
In 2020, USW became only the second HE institution in Wales to be awarded University of Sanctuary status. This recognises USW’s commitment to creating a culture of welcome for people seeking sanctuary within, and beyond, its campuses.
Dr Chick said: “We consider that the findings will be of benefit to local authorities seeking to respond to the emergence of new migrant populations, and to policymakers seeking evidence with which to develop strategies for community cohesion.
“Bringing skills, training, and expertise in an enormous range of occupations, refugees are often keen to put their work experience and energies to good use. Nevertheless, with regards to gaining employment, there is considerable evidence to suggest that refugees are at a particular disadvantage when accessing the labour market in the UK.”