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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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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. 

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Business Grants to Support Companies Hiring Refugees

Business grants for RefugeesReading Time: 2 minutes

 

Business Funding for Refugees

 

By Zoe Allen, Sona Circle

Hiring Refugees: Funding for Your Business

 

Having discovered the benefits of hiring refugees, you might be interested in exploring some avenues that could provide extra funding for a new hire. For training schemes, like apprenticeships, there is government funding available, and you may also be able to access other grants specific to your local area or sector. 

Funding for Apprentices

In our recent blog, we introduced the UK Apprenticeship Levy and how you can access funding for apprentices in the UK, including those from minority or disadvantaged backgrounds. You can read the post here for more. 

In addition to this initiative, local authorities sometimes provide grants for growth and new recruitment, including apprentices.

Funding for Graduates

If you are looking to hire a refugee who is also a UK university graduate, there are several grants and funding opportunities to assist with this. 

For example, a Knowledge Transfer Partnership could work for you if you want to run a particular project, or the Santander SME internships programme is a fantastic scheme that supports anyone to access an internship with a UK SME but gives priority and extra funding to (under)graduates from disadvantaged backgrounds. 

You’ll need to be in contact with a university near you who runs this programme to get involved. 

Funding for Specific Sectors

Some sectors may have their own authorities or charities that will provide grants to help you hire from disadvantaged or minority communities. 

For the creative sector, take a look at Creative Access, and there may be similar schemes available for your sector too. 

Local Grants for Creating New Opportunities

There are many local charities and authorities who will support SMEs to hire new recruits who qualify for diversifying your business by hiring refugees. 

Most of these opportunities focus on growth for your business and specify the creation of new roles in your business within six or twelve months. These may be training roles, like interns or apprentices. 

You’ll need to do some research to find some in your area, but here are some examples from Arun District Council and New Anglia. 

Learn more 

If you think these opportunities could work for you and you’re interested in finding help to hire a talented intern or apprentice for your business, then Sona Circle can help.

Contact us now to learn more about our 3-month internship programme to help empower refugees into work.

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7 Effects of COVID-19 on Refugee Employment

RefugeesReading Time: 4 minutes

 

Refugee

 

By Zoe Allen, Sona Circle

Refugees already face an extensive range of barriers when looking for work in the UK, from low proficiency in English to lack of social connections and difficulty accessing services, to outright discrimination.

This leads to the rate of unemployment being four times higher than the UK average for refugee communities.  

However, it only gets worse. Refugees and people seeking asylum have been disproportionately negatively affected by the employment crisis which has resulted from the Covid-19 pandemic, many being placed on furlough, losing their jobs, and facing financial hardship. 

We review recent research to reflect on how the barriers that refugees face to accessing employment and services have been impacted by the challenges of the pandemic, as shown in the figures below from the Breaking Barriers May 2020 Client Needs Assessment. 

How has the pandemic impacted refugee employment and employability?

1. Changing needs: Like everyone in the UK, the needs of refugees and people seeking asylum have changed dramatically during and after the pandemic. 45% report that their needs have changed during the pandemic and Breaking Barriers found that training and housing support were the top priorities going forward.

2. Access to services and training: In the Breaking Barriers survey, 82% reported support with services relating to employment, training and English lessons as one of their top three needs. This highlights that refugee communities do not just need direct access to jobs, but support with employability skills, training for work in the UK and support to improve English language skills. 

This issue is made even more complex by how difficult Covid-19 makes it to provide and access training like this, especially when only around half of the refugees surveyed had access to a laptop. 

3. Increased unemployment: Refugees were disproportionately affected by employment issues during the pandemic; 36% were furloughed, compared to 27% of the UK population as a whole, and 32% of respondents who had managed to secure employment prior to the crisis – despite all the barriers that face refugees – lost their jobs as a result of Covid-19.

UK wide unemployment rates are expected to rise from 4% to 10% after the height of the pandemic – much lower figures than those we have seen from this report for refugees. 

4. Isolation and social connections: Social isolation is a key barrier already faced by many refugees in the UK, as people seeking asylum often arrive alone, with few (if any) social connections in the UK. Therefore, when the whole of the UK had to go into lockdown, this issue was made much worse for refugees. 

In the Breaking Barriers report, relief from social isolation was flagged as a top need for refugee communities, alongside the need for employment and financial support.

Without the opportunity to build social connections in the UK, refugees cannot integrate into the UK and will, therefore, struggle further to access employment opportunities once they are available.

5. Wellbeing and mental health: As above, refugees have been disproportionately affected by the Covid-19 pandemic, with unemployment and social isolation exacerbating the issues refugees already face in the UK. They are therefore even more susceptible to the effects on mental health and wellbeing caused by these hardships. 

As refugees are already much more likely to suffer from mental health issues than the UK-born population, this is likely to lead to an extreme mental health crisis amongst refugee communities. 

6. Compounding work and skills gaps: Gaps in work history is another barrier that stops refugees accessing employment opportunities in the UK. Many refugees already have gaps in their work history by the necessity of the long journey to flee their home country; if refugees were unable to work during the pandemic, this is only compounded. 

This may be even worse for people seeking asylum who cannot work but may have had their asylum claims delayed because of Covid-19. 

However, research shows that 45% would have been essential workers during the pandemic, based on previous work experience. This has fuelled an ongoing campaign to allow asylum seekers to work as soon as they arrive in the UK; you can read more about the Lift the Ban campaign here. 

7. Financial impact: The Breaking Barriers report also notes that many refugees live in low-income households, so will be harder hit by redundancies and further barriers to employment. Many households also experienced increased expenditure on weekly shopping during lockdown, due to stock shortages in supermarkets. 

Financial support was reported as a key need for refugee communities. Alongside immediate financial relief, employability and employment support will only become more important to prevent and alleviate poverty in refugee communities. 

How will this progress?

We can only guess at how this situation will progress as the UK financial and employment landscape changes as the pandemic progresses. What these statistics from the Breaking Barriers report show, however, is that refugees and people seeking asylum are already being disproportionately affected by the issues that affect the UK population, as refugees already had higher rates of unemployment than the UK average. 

The possibility of a second UK-wide or further localised lockdowns leading to further redundancies and furloughs is likely to put further pressure on refugee communities, and make the need for employability and employment services for refugees and young people seeking asylum even more desperate. 

What can we do to help?

We must provide dynamic and adaptable employability solutions to help refugees overcome the barriers that have only been increased by the pandemic. 

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 skilled and 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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The Culture and Heritage that Refugees Leave Behind

Culture of RefugeesReading Time: 2 minutes

 

Culture of Refugees

 

By Katy Cottrell, Sona Circle

When refugees are forced to flee their countries for their safety, they are also forced to leave behind their homes, jobs and many of their personal possessions. But what is sometimes overlooked, is the loss of the unique culture and heritage of their home country. Sometimes this can lead to cultural bereavement, where in addition to other traumas that refugees face, they must grieve the loss of their native culture.

Researchers from Georgetown University interviewed refugees to find out what it was that they missed most about their former lives. This research highlighted the rich and unique culture that once connected the communities that these refugees came from. For example, one Palestinian man spoke about how he missed sharing Friday evenings with his neighbours, where they would ‘get together and chat, and their stories wouldn’t stop until the middle of the night’.

It is understandable that some refugees may experience a culture shock when arriving in countries such as the UK, where interactions between neighbours tend to be briefer and bonds less strong. Other refugees from Syria spoke about frequenting the markets in Damascus where Syrian food, handmade crafts and jewellery are sold or drinking coffee whilst listening to storytellers and poets who, prior to the conflict, would recount ancient tales in local cafes.

These are just some examples of the cultural heritage that refugees have often been forced to leave behind.

When refugees arrive in their new host country, there is often a strong pressure to conform to this country’s culture at the expense of maintaining their own traditions that have always been integral to their lives.

Researchers have described two processes of integration when refugees (and migrants in general) begin living in a new country: assimilation and acculturation.

Assimilation is when a minority group gradually and eventually loses all the cultural markers that set them apart as an individual group, instead of adopting the culture of a larger group. This integration process is often associated with poorer mental health and psychological well-being and lower self-esteem.

In contrast, acculturation is thought to be a more positive process in which a minority group is able to maintain their cultural traditions and co-exist with the dominant culture.

This is why it is important to celebrate and be respectful of refugee’s cultural traditions and heritage. Many refugees seek to share their home country’s culture using music, food and fashion, and you can show your support for this by supporting refugee-led businesses. For example, Anqa Collective is an online marketplace where you can shop for clothes and other products that have been made by refugees and are often inspired by the culture of their home countries. Similarly, Migrateful is a charity that provides cooking classes (currently online) that are led by refugees so they can share and celebrate their culture through cuisine.

Overall, it should not be overlooked that culture is an important part of all of our identities, and when refugees are living and integrating into a new host culture, they can enrich this society by bringing various parts of their heritage with them.

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Quick Guide to Apprenticeship Funding for Businesses

Apprenticeships for UK BusinessesReading Time: 3 minutes

 

Apprenticeships for UK Businesses

 

By Zoe Allen, Sona Circle

In the UK, the government provides a huge amount of funding and incentives for businesses to encourage them to hire apprentices. For larger businesses, this includes the apprenticeship levy scheme. If your business if not yet taking advantage of this, then read on to learn more about the funding available and how it could benefit your business.

What are apprenticeships?

Apprenticeships are paid training roles within a company that provide practical, on-the-job training for a particular trade or career. They are provided by a host business and a training provider, such as a local college, where the apprentices also learn about the trade in a classroom setting. At least 20% of the apprentice’s time will be spent with the training provider. An apprenticeship can take between one and six years to complete.

To read the UK government’s guidelines on apprenticeships schemes, click here.

Apprenticeships develop a dedicated and qualified talent pipeline, suited perfectly to your company. It gives businesses the opportunity to train employees specifically for your company and roles that you may have in the future. Take a look at this article discussing why you should hire an apprentice.

What’s more, if your business has a payroll of over £3 million, you will already be paying an apprenticeship levy which you can invest back into apprenticeships. If you are a smaller business, you are eligible to have 95% of your apprentice’s funding costs paid by the UK government. Read on to learn more.

The apprenticeship levy

In 2017, a new levy was introduced to encourage large businesses to provide high-quality apprenticeships.

If your company has a payroll of over £3 million, you will pay 0.5% of the monthly payroll (minus a levy allowance of 15,000) into a fund that can then be used to fund apprenticeship training. In addition, the UK government will add an extra 10% into this fund.

You then have 24 months to spend your levy fund on apprenticeship schemes within your business, or with partners in your supply chain (up to 25% of your fund). If you have not spent this money on apprentices after 24 months, it will be claimed by HMRC.

I, n a nutshell, if you aren’t investing the levy back into your business through training apprentices, you lose it.

It’s also worth remembering that apprentices do not have to be young, untrained, new recruits. The money can be spent on training current employees, people of any age, or on people who already have some training or higher education, including people with degrees.

To learn more, take a look at this useful page and video from the Apprenticeship Academy.

What if my company has a payroll of less than £3 million?

If you do not qualify for paying the apprenticeship levy, you are eligible for direct government funding of up to 95% of an apprentice’s training and assessment with a training provider. You will pay in 5%.

In some situations, you may also be eligible for extra funding, especially if the apprentice is from a disadvantaged background.

You can find out more on the UK government website.

Would it work for you?

Absolutely.

Training a skilled and dedicated apprentice can be an extremely affordable, effective and efficient way to train your ideal, diverse employees and can work for businesses of any size.

If you are a large business who already pays the apprenticeship levy, if you do not hire apprentices you could be losing significant amounts of money that could be reinvested into your business.

If you are a smaller business, it can cost you a very small amount to hire and train your ideal employees with the government funding 95% of training.

At Sona Circle Recruitment, we are on a mission to help more refugees and people seeking asylum in the UK access valuable training and employment to allow them to integrate into their new lives in the UK.

With refugees often being young in age and experience, arriving from a break from work, or not used to UK workplace culture, apprenticeships are an ideal way to help talented, positive and bright refugees integrate into the UK workforce. Refugees and people seeking asylum are eligible for apprenticeship funding and may even be eligible for even more, circumstance-specific funding.

If you want to learn more about why refugees can be an asset to any business, read our blog post here.

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Frozen Present: A Story of Resilience of Refugees in Malaysia

Refugees in MalaysiaReading Time: 2 minutes

 

Refugees in Malaysia

 

By Chiara Fabbro, Sona Circle Contributor (Insta: @Chi.fabb)

Zhara, Malika and Hussain are three young siblings. They live in a small flat in a 15 storey building in the suburbs of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. They are Hazara and come from Afghanistan, but they had to flee their home country as Hazara people are still facing ethnic and religious discrimination and persecution.

The three siblings are alone. In Kuala Lumpur, Hussain provides for his sisters by working in a bakery. He is 18, the eldest. A quote from a post he put up on social media reads “You never know how strong you are until being strong is the only choice you have.” His commitment and resilience are beyond moving.

Malika, the youngest, is really good with languages and often acts as an interpreter from Farsi to English for the others. She teaches English in kindergarten, in the local community centre for Afghan refugees, to kids aged four to five. ‘They are cute, but also a bit naughty’, she says laughing. She has the most infectious and sweet laugh you could imagine.

Zhara is a beautiful young woman, with a more reserved personality than her sister. She cooks delicious Afghan dishes that remind her of home and dreams of one day becoming a doctor.

In reality, Zhara, Malika and Hussain will need to fight for a chance to a bright future. Malaysia didn’t sign the 1951 Refugee Convention and it, therefore, doesn’t recognise the refugee status. Yet there are over 160,000 registered refugees in the country, and many more unregistered.

These are mostly Rohingya refugees who escaped from Myanmar, but other nationalities are present too – Syrian, Yemenis and Afghans amongst them. They aren’t allowed to work and cannot attend state schools, while the cost of private schooling is too high for all but a handful to afford. They rely heavily on UNHCR-issued ID cards for status. Under Malaysian law, they are liable to arrest or deportation, but showing this card provides some protection.

Since the refugees aren’t allowed to work legally they have no choice but to work off the books, with very low wages and no protection. Even worse, if they are found working by the police, they can be arrested or sometimes have to bribe them in exchange for turning a blind eye.

It’s a limbo – similar to asylum seekers awaiting a decision in Europe, the difference being, here it will last until Malaysia changes its policy relating to refugees.

The chance of relocation to a third country that could provide asylum is very slim. The USA is the main country of resettlement for this group and the chances of this happening have become increasingly slimmer in recent years due to the policies implemented by the Trump administration.

This is an everyday reality for tens of thousands of refugees in Malaysia, barely allowed to exist, let alone fight for a better future.

They are trapped between a painful past and a bleak tomorrow, far from home, they rely only on their incredible resilience, in a present that feels like it’s frozen.