Posted on Leave a comment

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.

Posted on Leave a comment

#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. 

Posted on Leave a comment

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.

Posted on Leave a comment

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.

Posted on Leave a comment

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.

Posted on Leave a comment

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.

Posted on Leave a comment

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.