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5 Internal Communications Methods for Start-Ups

5 Internal Communications Methods for Start-UpsReading Time: 2 minutes

 

5 Internal Communications Methods for Start-Ups

 

By Michael Brennan (Workvivo.com), Contributor

 Are you a start-up company that’s developing your internal communications? Maybe you are a growing SME or established business that recognises internal communications could be improved. Identifying the issue is the easy part. It’s finding solutions that’s challenging, right?

If this sounds like you, then this blog post is essential reading. We share five internal communications methods to kick-start your internal comms planning process.

1. Organisational meetings

There’s no substitute for face-to-face communication. Organisation-wide meetings are excellent for getting everyone together to share and discuss company updates and industry news.

Given the COVID pandemic, it can be hard to hold organisational meetings, especially with people working from home. However, technology can help. Use Zoom or other video conferencing apps to hold a virtual meeting instead.

2. Business update emails

With 3.9 billion users worldwide, email is still the number one communication method for many companies. And it’s no wonder given its familiarity, convenience and ease of use.

Email is a great choice for getting messages out to large numbers of staff. Maybe you need to let workers know about a new product launch. One email quickly and easily gets the message out to all staff.

Furthermore, email is accessible anytime, anywhere, and any place. So, if an employee is out on the road or working from home, all they need is a smartphone to stay updated.

3. Quarterly business overview update

Many businesses find it helpful to share detailed communications on company performance in a quarterly update.

Employees who have a better understanding of corporate goals and their contribution are more invested in the company’s success. That’s a vital best practice message from Gallup, among others.

So, just as you report to senior management on quarterly performance, why not consider sharing a version with employees? It will increase transparency and accountability. And it will ensure staff buy-in to the company’s goals and objectives.

4. Presentations

Presentations are an excellent tool for sharing internal knowledge and expertise. They can be held on a departmental, team or topic basis. And they bring people together who may not otherwise have contact in the workplace.

The shift to remote working makes it tricky to hold traditional-style presentations. However, many businesses are using webinars as an alternative. Staff can still ask questions and actively participate even when it’s online.

5. Workshops

Similar to presentations, workshops allow for more interaction and collaboration between participants.

They are the perfect vehicle for single topic communications, such as explaining to staff new health and safety requirements or the employee benefits programme.

Employees can more easily ask questions, share ideas and ask for clarification in a workshop setting.

Internal Communications Methods

The methods we have outlined above are just a starting point. Effective internal communications is about selecting the appropriate channel for your message.

And it’s well worth the effort. Whether it’s productivity, collaboration, employee motivation, and employee engagement, internal communications will make a difference.

 

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Sona Circle Recruitment Helping Refugees find Jobs and Employment Opportunities

Reading Time: 2 minutes

 

 

Aanya Bhandari, Sona Circle

With the refugee unemployment rate (pre-COVID) at 18%, more than four times that of the UK average, refugee recruitment remains a key social and economic issue for over 150,000 refugees in the UK. 

In attempting to enter the labour market, refugees are faced with several barriers, both social and systemic which hinder their ability to find jobs. 

Recruitment decisions are often based on misconceptions. For example, many employers are unaware that once an asylum seeker obtains refugee status in the UK, they are legally entitled to full and equal rights to work as British citizens.

Often professional, and educational qualifications obtained by refugees in their countries of origin, are not recognised by British employers who tend to favour domestic qualifications. In addition, relevant UK work experience is usually a pre-requisite to getting a job which refugees often do not have. 

Due to these as well as language and other cultural barriers, refugees are put at a huge disadvantage in obtaining jobs and employment opportunities which leads to further employment gaps in their CV’s.

Sona Circle bridge the gap by connecting socially conscious employers with the skilled and dependable refugee workforce, and has a track record of promoting equality in the workplace and in employment for refugees and asylum seekers.

The UK is currently faced with a stagnating labour force and an ageing population, a trend which is projected to continue over the next twenty years. An effective integration strategy of refugees into the labour workforce would make available a reservoir of untapped potential as well as an effective integration method for economic and cultural socialisation. 

Numerous studies have found that the refugee workforce can be greatly beneficial to success in businesses. 

Some of the advantages refugees bring to the table in the workplace include cultural diversity, higher retention rates, a wide range of skills and talents, and an appeal to a growing socially-conscious consumer base who care about diversity and inclusion.

To date, Sona Circle has created over 100 opportunities for refugees and asylum seekers through a network of partnerships with over 35 NGOs and refugee support organisations, and a social media community of over 35,000 followers and subscribers.

Sona Circle is actively engaged in the shaping of public opinion in support of refugees. 

We are advocates for the rights of refugees and asylum seekers in the UK through the ‘Lift the ban’ campaign led by Refugee Action. We also created the SonaTalks events platform, a programme of volunteer-led talks, that brings people together to share worthwhile conversations about refugees in our communities. 

If you are an employer or someone who would like to get involved, you can find out more about the work we do at Sona Circle by visiting our website here or by getting in touch with us at info@sonacircle.com.  

You can also support our brand-new campaign #EqualTees, where we invite members of the public to take an active stance on promoting true equality across the nation. By purchasing and wearing an Equal Tee, you do not just contribute to the social responsibility of looking after those in need, you are also making a public statement that discrimination and prejudice need to end.

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Meet Me at Fatma’s: An Inspirational Story of Refugees in Entrepreneurship

Reading Time: 2 minutes

 

 

By Katy Cottrell, Sona Circle

Meet Me at Fatma’s is a series of pop-up brunch shops which serve delicious food inspired by traditional Yemeni cuisine. The founder of this business, Fatma Al-Baiti says that each dish is served with its own twist and has been inspired by ‘a certain tradition practised in our household and the cities I was born or raised in’. 

Fatma is originally from Yemen, but after arriving in the UK to study for her master’s degree in 2014 she was unable to return to her country due to the conflict that was unfolding there. Now the conflict in Yemen has gone on for over five years, causing the death of over 12,000 civilians as well as extensive damage to infrastructure. But Fatma is keen for Yemen to be known for more than just conflict and instability. 

She explains, ‘I noticed that what people know about Yemen is limited to the war and the current political unrest. I wanted to inform them that there’s more to Yemen than a conflict’. 

Beyond the war, she says ‘Yemen is a beautiful country with a rich culture and very diverse cuisine that needs to be rediscovered with open minds and hearts’. 

Sharing Yemeni culture has been something that Fatma has definitely succeeded in. Tickets to each pop-up brunch sell out fast, and so far she has introduced over 150 Londoners to Yemeni cuisine. 

Whilst Fatma’s success can largely be attributed to her hard work, motivation and exciting cuisine, she was supported in getting her ideas off the ground by The Entrepreneurial Refugee Network (TERN), of which she is now an alumnus. 

TERN supports refugee-led business in various ways, for Fatma TERN helped by ‘connecting me to those who have the knowledge and experience in the industry’. She says TERN ‘played an important role in getting Meet Me at Fatma’s set-up’. 

If you are a refugee with a business plan or know somebody who is, you can find TERN’s webpage here for more information about what they do and how they can help.

On the topic of refugees in business, I asked Fatma what advice she would pass on to companies who are planning on hiring refugees. Her response was to ‘remove the label refugee and treat them equal to everyone else’. 

She says, ‘refugees are often highly skilled and deserve the opportunity to be employed so they can start giving to their new society’. 

The success of Meet Me at Fatma’s is proof of the skills, knowledge and diverse perspectives that refugees can bring to businesses all over the world. 

Here at Sona Circle Recruitment, we help refugees to find work and training opportunities suited to their skills and experience. 

If you are a socially conscious employer and would like to get involved, you can find out more about how we can work with you to recruit from the skilled and dedicated refugee workforce by getting in touch with us. 

You can also support our new initiative #EqualTees where the money raised by each T-shirt sold goes directly towards supporting refugees into employment. 

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In Conversation with Lord Alf Dubs about Refugees in the UK

Lord DubsReading Time: 3 minutes

 

Lord Alf Dubs

 

By Katie McAdam, Sona Circle

Two terms in the House of Commons, seven years as Refugee Council director, and a life peerage in the House of Lords; Lord Dubs’ impressive CV makes him one of the UK’s most prominent refugee campaigners. 

For Lord Dubs protecting refugee rights have always been at the centre of his values. A child refugee from Nazi-occupied Prague, Czechoslovakia, Lord Dubs fled to the UK via the Kindertransport, a British government initiative allowing Jewish children to gain refuge in the UK. 

In recent years, Lord Dubs has achieved prominence in his advocacy of refugee rights in the Lords, most notably through his amendment to the 2016 Immigration Act. Named in his honour, the Dubs Amendment allowed for unaccompanied Syrian children to seek protection in the UK. 

Currently, Lord Dubs is campaigning for a similar clause, to safeguard child refugees, to be added to the new post-Brexit Immigration Bill. 

 

We spoke to Lord Dubs about some of the most pressing issues to refugee rights facing the UK. Lord Dubs provided insight on new immigration bill, EU relations and the impact of coronavirus on the refugee community. 

The COVID-19 pandemic has been an especially volatile time for refugees, with the emergency exposing faults of an already problematic system. Detention centres are an area of notable risk to refugees with the close proximity of detainees, increasing the likelihood of infection. 

Lord Dubs is particularly concerned that the measure is “much-abused” by government and is both ineffective and unethical, as a “large proportion” of detainees are “eventually released.” As a result of this malpractice, detention reform composes another of Dub’s amendments to the new Immigration Bill. 

With the overarching concern of the pandemic, Lord Dubs is keen to stress that coronavirus has “drawn attention away from refugees” with government viewing progress to refugee needs as a lesser priority. Many are concerned about what exactly the long-term effects of the pandemic will be on refugees. 

The future of the health and social care system is one in which particular adjustments will be most felt. 

For Lord Dubs, the pandemic has “highlighted how much we depend on social care” workers, with the sector home to many refugees. To further safeguard the needs of vulnerable workers, Lord Dubs demands a “rethink…of the social care system” and stresses the importance of paying “decent” wages.

Before the pandemic, Brexit posed the most uncertainty to the UK’s relationship with the international community. As the post-Brexit policy remains unclear, there is concern over the new role of Europe in cooperation of refugee rights issues. 

Lord Dubs is hopeful that the UK will negotiate the continuation of the Dublin Treaty, which allows asylum seekers who seek refuge in one European state to reunite with family members in another European state. However, this is a delicate issue, with the future EU relations dependent on maintaining “goodwill” between states. 

In resolve to wider European issues, Lord Dubs encourages a more “uniform and liberal approach towards refugees” to allow for a more effective system across the continent. For example, Lord Dubs points to the example of child refugee status being revoked after the age of 18 in the UK whereas this practice is not adopted by other nations e.g. Germany and France. 

Lord Dubs stresses the particular importance of cooperation between the UK and France. 

As the UK’s closest neighbour, France shares the English Channel, a major refugee migration route between the two. The Channel has been of specific interest recently under Home Sectary Patel’s proposal to close all refugee access routes in the Channel over concerns of UK sovereignty. 

Lord Dubs is particularly worried about the media’s role in the portrayal of refugees whereby “concerns over the Channel” are played in “such a way as to increase hostility towards all refugees”. This narrative is often at odds with the idea of outward hospitality the UK aims to portray, leading many refugees to cross the “dangerous stretch” as “they believe they will be treated better.” 

However, it is not only government and large organisations that will influence the future of refugee rights. 

Lord Dubs concludes that “we’ve got to get public opinion on our side” if the government wants to reform the refugee system, noting the power of public pressure in enacting change.

 

Sona Circle, a non-profit social enterprise that connects refugees with employers have been actively engaged in the shaping of public opinion in support of refugees. Sona Circle are advocates for the rights of refugees and asylum seekers in the UK through the ‘Lift the ban’ campaign let by Refugee Action, the SonaTalks events which seek to highlight the invaluable contributions which refugees make to our communities and most recently through the launch of #EqualTees where members of the public are invited to take an active stance on promoting true equality across the nation.

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#EqualTees by Sona Circle

Equal TeesReading Time: 3 minutes

 

Equal Tees

 

By Katy Cottrell, Sona Circle

As coronavirus swept across the UK many business sectors were hit extremely hard. The resulting increase in unemployment has been felt across the country, and especially in major cities like London, Manchester and Birmingham. One group of individuals that has felt the impact the most has been refugees and asylum seekers, with unemployment rates reaching new dire levels. Pre-COVID the refugee unemployment rate was at 18% as opposed to the general UK population unemployment rate of 3.9%.

Sona Circle connects socially conscious employers with the skilled and dependable refugee workforce and has a track record of promoting equality in the workplace and in employment for Refugees, Asylum Seekers, Immigrants and BAME individuals alike.

In our brand new campaign, #EqualTees, we invite members of the public to take an active stance on promoting true equality across the nation. By purchasing and wearing an Equal Tee, you do not just contribute to the social responsibility of looking after those in need, you are also making a public statement that discrimination and prejudice needs to end.

The proceeds raised by the Equal Tees campaign are distributed directly towards workplace equality and refugee employment.

Onaseye Onabolu, the founder of Sona Circle, shares his excitement:

“It’s time for us to come together as a community to take a stand for what we believe in. This is true equality in society, in the workplace and on the streets of our neighbourhoods. By wearing an Equal Tee you are courageously demonstrating that you value equality”.

Sona Circle match participating employers with bright, committed and job-ready refugees so they can gain valuable hands-on experience in business. By creating these opportunities for refugees, the nation is coming together and combatting the discrimination and stigma in hiring practices that contribute to refugee unemployment. 

By wearing an Equal Tee you are standing in solidarity with any group in society that has been unfairly treated or discriminated against, this does not end with refugees and asylum seekers, it includes the Black Lives Matter movement, LGBTQ+ rights, gender equality and BAME rights.

Why should you support the work of Sona Circle Recruitment?

Many refugees experience pervasive discrimination in their host country after resettlement. This bias is often manifested (whether intended or not) through exclusion, particularly in the workplace. 

As a result, the UK unemployment rate is 4x higher for the refugee population than the British population. This can have negative effects on refugees’ ability to integrate into their host country and provide for themselves and their families. 

Sona Circle promotes workplace equality by educating employers on the valuable skills that refugees can bring to businesses and how they can make their hiring practices more refugee-friendly. 

What can I do to help? 

By purchasing an Equal Tee and wearing it in your place of work or in your community you can ensure that the discussion of true equality in society is continued. 

Additionally, you can introduce the work of Sona Circle at your office and support the mission of combatting debilitating unemployment within the Refugee and Asylum Seeker community.

If you’re able to make a donation, please visit the Sona Circle JustGiving page to share the social responsibility of caring for those in need.

Finally, If you would like more information on how Sona Circle can support you and your business, please do get in touch. 

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Refugee Access to Technology During the Covid-19 Pandemic

Reading Time: 3 minutes

 

 

By Katy Cottrell, Sona Circle

During the Covid-19 pandemic, many of us have felt grateful for the digital world which has helped us stay in touch with loved ones, informed with important information and constantly entertained. However, recent research from Breaking Barriers has highlighted the discrepancy in digital access between refugees living in the UK and the British population. 

Breaking Barriers’ research showed that only 54% of refugees surveyed had access to a laptop or computer, compared to 88% of the British population. 

Worse still, only 43% of the refugee population had access to both a laptop or computer as well as WIFI in their homes. With alternative means of accessing the digital world, such as libraries or internet cafes being closed during the pandemic, many refugees have been left isolated and unable to maintain regular contact with their support systems. 

Online access is important to help refugees integrate and form stable lives in their host country. 

Many refugees use online resources to search for job openings and to prepare for interviews. Often refugees need to familiarise themselves with British hiring practices and workplace culture before making applications. Additionally, in this period many companies have been conducting interviews over video conferencing software such as Zoom and Skype, meaning that those who do not have reliable internet access are immediately on a back foot and are unable to move forward in the hiring process. 

A lack of reliable internet access also affects refugees’ ability to engage in educational material, for those who are at school or University or are learning English online. With Breaking Barriers also finding that younger refugees were even less likely to have access to a laptop or computer than their older counterparts, it is likely that there are many young refugees in the UK who have struggled to keep up to date with lesson content. 

This problem is likely to continue when term starts again in September. However, this issue has been identified by some local communities. For example, the Phoenix Community Centre in Tottenham found that some unaccompanied minors living in supportive housing had been unable to continue their studies when the colleges they attended moved their syllabus online. Fortunately, the Phoenix Community Centre was able to raise funds to provide laptops for the group so that they could successfully complete their studies. 

It is also important for refugees to have online access as a form of support, particularly during lockdown which has been emotionally and mentally challenging for many of us. 

Not only do refugees rely on informal support from family and friends on social media, but many are also supported by charities who have begun to provide support online. 

For example, Young Roots, a charity which supports refugees with issues such as housing, immigration and emotional support, have converted their youth groups to online sessions due to Covid-19. 

However, they also found that many would be unable to attend due to a lack of access to technology. In response, Young Roots have been raising funds to provide basic phones and data vouchers to refugees so they can remain in contact with them. With the NHS advising that staying in contact with others during the pandemic is crucial for maintaining good mental health, it is important that refugees can continue to receive support from charitable services and loved ones.

Overall, the research from Breaking Barriers has identified yet another additional challenge faced by refugees in the UK. The effects of limited online access are widespread, affecting so many areas of life including employment, education and wellbeing. Until society has returned to normality post-pandemic it is important for businesses, schools and organisations to be mindful of populations who are not able to engage with material and events conducted online.

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5 Tips for Refugees on How to Write a Resume

Reading Time: 4 minutes

 

 

By Carol Duke, Contributor

There are many reasons people around the world seek to build a new life in a different country. For refugees, this can mean leaving their home country entirely. Once you settle in and rebuild your life, it’s time to seek a new job. Of course, what better way to start your journey than by writing a winning resume?

A lot of refugees have great skills and job experience. But if you’re in a new country, chances are the expectations and cultural norms are different from what you’re accustomed to. This applies to crafting a resume as well. 

To increase your chances of landing a job, you’ll have to craft and adapt a resume that matches the expectations of hiring managers. Below are five important resume writing tips refugees and immigrants must know:

Tip #1: Essential information should be at the top.

While every resume or CV is unique and what’s included changes from one job market to another, there are essential information that should always be included on any resume. These are:

  • Your complete name (make it bold and use a shortened version of your name for easy reading)
  • Contact details (including e-mail and phone number; home address is optional)
  • Academic background
  • Previous job experience and a short description of each

Things you can opt NOT to include in your resume are personal information such as:

  • Country of origin or immigration status
  • Birthday and age
  • Marital status
  • Religion
  • Political affiliation
  • Any personal ID (i.e. social insurance, driver’s license)

It’s better to avoid including this information in your resume as they could be used against you. Additionally, they may not be relevant to the job and can be viewed by a hiring manager as oversharing or unprofessional. 

Typically, personal information is required only during the interview or when you’ve already accepted a job offer.

Tip #2: Showcase your skills.

This entirely depends on the type of job you’re applying for. But if your work is on the technical side and you’re tapping into multiple industries, it can be a great idea to list down your skills and proficiencies, including the tools and software you use.  

On the other hand, it may not be necessary to add a skills section for “soft” skills such as communication, leadership, etc., especially if they’re not relevant to the job. In most cases, hiring managers and recruiters view this section as insignificant and unnecessary.

The only exception to the rule would be if you’re an entry-level applicant and you have limited experience to showcase. If this is the case, a skills section can help add much-needed depth to your resume.

Tip #3: List your accomplishments.

In many countries, a resume can be a simple list of your job experience, with very little added detail. In countries like the US, UK, and Canada, an applicant is expected to highlight their accomplishments and strengths. Basically, you’re selling yourself on your resume.

Simply listing down your daily duties may not cut it. Your future boss will expect to see the impact you’ve had in your previous job or projects, instead of just a boring list of responsibilities. 

For example, instead of writing “created mobile app for a client”, consider “created a mobile app using [app development software] to create a responsive version of our biggest client’s website, making it more accessible to customers”. The underlying responsibilities appear the same, but the latter is more specific and more impressive. 

BONUS TIP:

Consider writing down your accomplishments in reverse chronological format. It’s the standard way of writing a resume in the US and UK, and it’s not too bad to get yourself familiar with it. It simply requires you to list down your latest work experience and achievements first, and your oldest last. Don’t forget to include the date range for each accomplishment!

Tip #4: Get the help of a friend (or a professional).

If you’re in doubt or feeling lost about what to write in your resume or CV, it may be time to call a friend or hire a professional writer. 

There’s nothing wrong about getting a little help to polish up your resume. A friend who’s had previous experience crafting a resume can be a big help but if this option isn’t available for you, your next best bet would be to hire a resume writer for a relatively small fee. For many refugee job-seekers, this option quickly pays itself off and has helped them land a great job. 

Of course, you should always be wary of scammers and fraudsters, which is why it’s important to look into writing service reviews first before paying someone to work on your resume or CV. 

If hiring a professional isn’t an option either, know that there are plenty of non-profit organizations out there that help refugees and immigrants build fundamental skills like resume writing. You can start by looking for them in your community!

Tip #5: Talk about your volunteer experience(s).

A lot of refugees don’t include the many ways they’ve volunteered and helped their own community. For instance, you may be well-versed in English or any other language, and you’ve translated for other members of your community. 

Unless the only people you’ve helped is your family, you can include this in your resume as part of your volunteer experience. 

Once you’ve learned to write a killer resume that’s tailor-designed to your next job prospect, you’re one step closer to getting a paycheck! Make sure to take them to heart so you can spend less time applying and more time earning money.

About the writer: Carol Duke is very keen on teaching students new, effective ways of learning. When not freelancing and blogging on marketing-related matters, Carol enjoys travelling, taking immense pleasure from visiting new countries.

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Greece Illegally Turns Away Thousands of Vulnerable People Seeking Asylum: A Crisis of Accountability

Greece illegally turns away refugeesReading Time: 4 minutes

 

Greece illegally turns away refugees

 

By Zoe Allen, Sona Circle

Greece accused of illegally expelling refugees

Last week, the New York Times reported claims that Greek authorities have been taking refugees from refugee camps and abandoning them in motorless rafts outside the Greek sea territory border rather than offering them asylum. 

The report claims over 1,000 refugees have been expelled in this way, which is illegal under international law that rules that countries have to offer safety to those who are fleeing violence and persecution. The groups, including children and babies, were left floating in the sea, either to be picked up by Turkish border forces or to be lost at sea. 

The New York Times report was formed from interviews with refugees who were abandoned by the Greek forces, with further evidence from three independent watchdogs, two academic researchers and the Turkish Coast Guard.

Greece denies claims of abandoning people at sea

Greece has since denied these claims, saying that Greece follows international law and has offered asylum to tens of thousands of people. Rather than saying they will investigate the reports, the Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis claimed that the reports were fabricated by Turkey.

He further deflected blame onto Turkey by claiming that Turkish border forces had been escorting boats filled with refugees into Greek waters rather than taking them safely to Turkey. 

This comes after Turkey recently announced they would not stop refugees from travelling on to Europe, largely through neighbouring Greece, causing large amounts of tension between the country and even resulting in violent border clashes. 

UNHCR calls on Greece to investigate the claims

UNHCR confirmed that these allegations had been increasing in number since March and that it appears to be true that refugees “may have been summarily returned after reaching Greece”.

UNHCR, amongst other rights groups, have called for the Greek government to investigate these claims internally, but there is as yet no call or seeming intention to investigate or intervene externally.

However, it is likely UNHCR, as a powerful international body on refugees, will monitor the situation and any further allegations.

NGOs and charities blocked from providing further assistance

Moreover, many NGOs and aid organisations have been blocked from operating in Greece, as legislation was introduced earlier this year to limit the ability of charities to provide support to refugee communities. 

This has resulted in further uncertainty, opacity, and lack of accountability for Greek authorities and a lack of protection and aid for refugees in Greece. 

This has meant there have been fewer reports on this situation and no immediate response on the ground to prevent this happening. However, as the situation continues to develop – as the New York Times report was only released on August 14th – there may be services put in place to prevent this happening further. 

To fully prevent further human rights abuses, it seems likely an investigation by UNHCR will be necessary, however, UNHCR is yet to express an intention to do so.

A note on the terms we use

Refugees are people who have fled persecution, war, famine and serious threats to their life in another country and settled in another country. A person seeking asylum is fleeing these threats and applying to resettle in another country but has not yet been awarded the right to remain. Refugees and asylum seekers cannot return to their home country safely. 

We never use the term “illegal migrant” which you may find some people using. Seeking asylum is by definition never illegal under international law, no matter what methods have been used to gain entry to a country. Using “refugee” instead of “migrant” helps differentiate between people who have moved country searching for jobs or wealth (economic migrants) and people who have moved country because they have no other choice if they want to live freely and safely (refugees). 

How can we help in the UK?

There are still plenty of organisations working on the ground in Greek’s refugee camps providing essential supplies and services to people in need. You can find a list of organisations to donate to or volunteer for here. 

As yet, there are no petitions calling for independent reviews or interventions in Greece or Turkey. However, you can sign the #EuropeMustAct petition started in March, which calls for fair relocation of asylum seekers, oversight of Greek refugee camps and a register of European legal, medical and protection staff to work in Greek camps to support refugees.

It’s also very important that we continue to welcome and support refugees in the UK as well as helping them in mainland Europe. You could donate to major charities helping refugees in the UK, such as British Red Cross or the Refugee Council.

Get involved with Sona Circle?

At Sona Circle Recruitment, we partner with companies to provide paid internships and apprenticeships to refugees, helping to combat an elitist internship culture and the recruitment practices that currently exist. If you know of a company that would be interested in hiring from the dependable refugee workforce, they can get in touch with us here.

You can also show your support by donating on our JustGiving page or by purchasing an Equal Tee from our online shop where all the profits go to supporting refugee employment. 

By wearing a #EqualTee you are standing in solidarity with any group in society that has been unfairly treated or discriminated against. This doesn’t end with refugees and asylum seekers, it includes the Black Lives Matter movement, LGBTQ+ rights, gender equality and BAME rights.

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Our Sangha: Mindfulness in Life and in Business

Our SanghaReading Time: 4 minutes

 

Our Sangha

 

By Katie McAdam, Sona Circle

After gaining a well-regarded role as an analyst at J.P Morgan, Amr Sabbah seemed to have it all. With a proud family, a secure income and a successful career, Sabbah was satisfied with his life. 

Following his first year at the global finance giant, Sabbah’s initial contentment faded as he became frustrated with the office’s toxic culture. Soon Sabbah’s mental health began to suffer as he developed anxiety and experienced frequent panic attacks. Stressed out at work, Sabbah needed a break to re-evaluate his life. 

For Sabbah, this desire for connection is a key feature in his life.  

Coming from Syria, Sabbah remembers the Damascus of his upbringing with fondness, missing the Mediterranean culture and strong sense of community. 

At the age of 19 during the Syrian civil war, Sabbah moved to the UK to study for a BA in Business Management at London Metropolitan University.  Moving to London saw a shift from Sabbah’s socially connected life in Damascus. For Sabbah, social isolation made life in the UK almost more difficult than the political instability in Syria.  

Determined to improve his situation, Sabbah worked hard to grow and develop his career at J.P Morgan’s Edinburgh office. But when the work was of detriment to his wellbeing, Sabbah needed greater peace in his life. 

In order to manage his anxiety, Sabbah turned to meditation. 

After seeing the benefits in his own life, Sabbah wanted to help other colleagues to benefit from meditation. Sabbah created a daily lunch-time meditation group to give others a space to recharge. The sessions proved to be popular at the Edinburgh branch and as a result, were implemented at J.P Morgan’s London office. 

Though meditation had been a welcome improvement, Sabbah was still unfulfilled and sought a more significant change. Sabbah moved to London with the aim of expanding his mediation groups into a business. 

With the support of The Entrepreneurial Refugee Network (TERN), Sabbah established the social enterprise Sangha Gathers. Keen to improve his knowledge of the field, Sabbah enhanced his passion through his studies at the University of East London in his Masters of Positive Psychology. 

Initially, Sabbah was drawn to following the popular model of the mindfulness app and expanding Sangha Gathers on a mobile platform. With a desire to be unique, Sabbah instead focused his attentions on creating the Our Sangha Facebook group, as a low-cost alternative to bringing people together through meditation. The Facebook group forms an important part of Sabbah’s wider social enterprise at Sangha Gathers.  

Sabbah’s distinctive approach is eager to focus on the advantages of group meditation which is often regarded as a solitary activity. 

Sangha Gathers offers both paid-for and free support. From Sabbah’s previous business experience, he knew there was a demand for corporate wellbeing programmes. Sangha Gathers provides group mediation and positive psychology programmes to businesses across the country. Most recently it has partnered with the University of Cambridge to offer 28 sessions over two weeks to university staff. Sabbah’s success at J.P Morgan has been emulated through Sangha Gathers, with his clients fostering the resilience and mindfulness to better cope within the workplace. 

On the more charitable side of Sangha Gathers, Sabbah’s personal connection has motivated him to train refugees and those from disadvantaged backgrounds through virtual positive psychology and meditation groups, in partnership with the University of East London.  

This refugee-led programme equips individuals with the ability to apply the methods learned to solve the problems they have identified in the sessions. Throughout the Covid-19 lockdown maintaining good mental health has been particularly important. To respond to the need, free meditation courses have been given to the Sangha community. 

Sabbah continues to develop his passion through Sangha Gatherers as it continues to expand.  Sabbah advises those who want to lead a similar path, that it is vital to test your ideas as soon as possible in order to gather the feedback to adapt your activities. 

He also believes that though it may take time for your passion to come into reality, you should start small and just go for it. 

Mental health and entrepreneurship are two critical areas of refugee integration which have been covered by Sona Circle Recruitment blogs. This is why we partner with many diverse partner organisations (including Sangha Gathers) which all have one thing in common, a shared commitment to supporting the skilled refugee workforce.

At Sona Circle Recruitment, we partner with companies to provide paid internships and apprenticeships to refugees, helping to combat an elitist internship culture and the recruitment practices that currently exist. If you know of a company that would be interested in hiring from the dependable refugee workforce, they can get in touch with us here.

You can also show your support by donating on our JustGiving page or by purchasing an Equal Tee from our online shop where all the profits go to supporting refugee employment. 

By wearing a #EqualTee you are standing in solidarity with any group in society that has been unfairly treated or discriminated against. This goes further than refugees and asylum seekers, it includes the Black Lives Matter movement, LGBTQ+ rights, gender equality and BAME rights.

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An Insight to the Italian Migration and Asylum System

The Italian Migration and Asylum SystemReading Time: 3 minutes

 

The Italian Migration and Asylum System

 

Agnese Pierobon, Sona Circle

As the COVID-19 pandemic has destroyed lives, economies and health systems across the world, many communities have experienced disruption. One annual event occurring each summer in Italy which has seen no change over the years; the arrival of migrants in the southern shores of the country.

This summer, however, the Italian Parliament is discussing a reform of the law covering the asylum reception system, putting to question the protection granted to migrants.

Italian Minister of Interior Mr Lamorgese submitted a legislative proposal in order to reform the so-called “Safety and Immigration decree”. 

To understand the impact of this proposal, it is important to take a step back and have a look at the Italian asylum system and what effect any changes will have on the lives of refugees.

In Italy, the reception system for asylum seekers and refugees was formally established in 2001, when the PNA (Program of National Asylum) was formed. This was the first public program of its kind in the country.

Later in 2002, an important innovation to the programme was implemented, the national network of the SPRAR (Protection System for Asylum Seekers and Refugees), which represented the cornerstone guidelines for the reception of refugees in Italy. The SPRAR was in place during the first extraordinary wave of arrivals, between 2011 and 2013.

During that critical period, in order to cope with the increased number of arrivals, the then Minister of the Interior declared a state of emergency, the so-called North Africa Emergency (ENA). A new reception system was set up to work in parallel to the SPRAR. 

This new system brought with it a new set of problems as it cut down the services to asylum seekers (i.e. poor integration programmes, no language classes and no job orientation).

In 2013, when the state of emergency had passed, the ENA reception programme was discontinued, which meant that the migrants still hosted in the reception facilities at the time had to leave, with no alternative accommodation provided. 

The “respite” period was short, however, and in 2015 a major wave of new arrivals in Italy found the country yet again, unprepared.

To provide a timely response, the CAS (Extraordinary Reception Centres) was set up, with the aim of fulfilling the shortcomings of the SPRAR system. The guidelines regarding the structure and management of the CAS have remained vague over time, without clearly indicating minimum structural requirements or quality standards. 

These centres, however, instead of representing a temporary solution became the focus of the Italian reception system efforts. In 2018, the Safety and Immigration Decree essentially transformed the extraordinary reception centres into an essential step in the application for international protection. 

At the same time, the SPRAR renamed SIPROIMI (Protection for Holders of International Protection and Unaccompanied Foreign Minors) has seen the exclusion of migrants and asylum seekers from potential benefits by creating a range of categories of migrants, such as refugees, subsidiary protection, unaccompanied minors and special cases (victims of violence, labour exploitation, health treatment and civic value).

The newly iterated SIPROIMI, proposed by a populist Italian politician, was met with a lot of concern by immigration experts, as it decreased the minimum standards of living for asylum seekers. In the CAS extraordinary reception centres, support with language, employment and integration were withdrawn which meant that many months were wasted while asylum seekers awaited their asylum claim results. 

The new Minister of Interior, a technician with a broad range of experience, has proposed a change to this regulation, a reintroduction of the SPRAR system and a modification of the Safety and Immigration Decree. This is currently on the agenda for the Italian Parliament to vote on. 

In the meanwhile, thousands of migrants are leaving Libya and North Africa and heading towards Italian shores. After decades, an effective European response is still lacking. Italy remains alone in the rescue of migrants from the shores due to the lack of a cohesive agreement among the European Union. 

However, in this chaotic picture of the Italian legal framework concerning refugees, there is one thing that has always made a positive difference to the country’s response to refugees, this is the commitment of the Italian population in supporting refugees and asylum seekers by volunteering and donating to support refugee programs. 

Many of the flaws of the government response systems are repaired by the commitment of the Italian people.