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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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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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4 Ways to Support Refugees in your Community

4 Ways to Support Refugees in your CommunityReading Time: 3 minutes

 

 

By Aanya Bhandari, Sona Circle

Migration isn’t easy. Accepting change isn’t easy. Starting a new life isn’t easy.

Refugees face a wide range of challenges when it comes to integration and acceptance within their communities. It is no secret that xenophobia and racism are two of the most pertinent issues that plague societies around the world today.

Adding to the various difficulties that refugees face are growing anti-refugee and anti-migrant sentiments, which have profound implications for refugees’ social welfare and mental health as they migrate to, and settle in new host communities.

The current political climate and emerging policies on immigration in various western countries have propelled refugee resettlement programmes into the everyday consciousness of the public through news and social media, like never before.

Researchers have observed that refugees are often unwelcome in many communities as a result of the “rampant Islamophobia, racism, and anti-immigration rhetoric.”

The rise of populist, nationalist governments has boosted hate speech and xenophobic rhetoric. From Hungary to the United States, political actors in power have resorted to anti-refugee and anti-immigrant stances that promote fear and distrust of foreigners. In some cases, leaders are expressing a complete denial of any need to respond to the world refugee crisis, by insinuating that most asylum seekers’ claims are bogus and tearing down the basic notion that people have the right to flee for safety.

Hundreds of thousands of refugees embark on long, perilous journeys every year, for the opportunity of a ‘new beginning’, only to be greeted by the stigma of their past which has slowly crept into their hopes of a new life with a clean slate.

Mental health is often stigmatised amongst the general population.

This is extended to a much larger degree towards the refugee communities which have often experienced traumatic events due to political, religious, environmental or social events. The trauma of these events often precedes the event itself that causes millions to flee from their homes, communities and countries every year.

While many of the required changes are at a macro-policy level, individuals who form a part of the general population have the power to bring about many small changes, which combined, can have a great impact.

By acting together, we can change the historical trend of systemic oppression, discrimination and intolerance towards refugees and immigrants.

So, what can we do on an individual level to show our support and change the narrative of refugees and asylum seekers within our communities?

1. Embrace diverse cultures

A small change in attitude can go a long way. An appreciation for different cultures, cuisines, fashion, languages, skin tones, and even physical appearances can help us understand so much more about the world we all live in. As human beings, we all have many similar shared values and ethics. If we can learn to embrace diversity then understanding and empathy for others will follow naturally.

2. Support refugee businesses

By contributing to refugee businesses such as those supported by The Entrepreneurial Refugee Network (TERN), you could help support refugee integration. This could be as simple as buying bread from a refugee owned or supported outlet such as Breadwinners. You may not realise it but by doing these little things, you’re helping someone feel like they are a valued part of a community, showing that the community is as much theirs as it is yours.

3. Employ refugees

Employing refugees is great for businesses. Aside from adding new skills and diversity to your business, it also creates a healthier work environment as different cultures and ideas working side by side produce the best results.

If you would like to learn more about the benefits of hiring refugees and how best to integrate the refugee workforce in your business, get in touch with Sona Circle who are able to work with your human resource team to hire from the skilled and dependable refugee workforce.

4. Work together

No two refugees have the same experiences. Each individual has needs and requirements which are based on their unique characters and experiences. It is therefore essential that we all collaborate and cooperate to understand the different ways in which we can best support refugees and asylum seekers in our communities.

This is why we partner with many diverse partner organisations which all have one thing in common, a shared commitment to supporting the skilled and dependable refugee workforce.

And, always remember, as the old Chinese proverb goes “a journey of a thousand miles, begins with a first step”.

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A Guide to Apprenticeships for Refugees and Asylum Seekers

Workplace ApprenticeshipReading Time: 3 minutes

 

 

By Zoe Allen, Sona Circle

What are apprenticeships?

Apprenticeships are training programmes designed to prepare you for a career in a particular trade or profession. Importantly, they include practical, on-the-job training, and you are paid whilst you complete your apprenticeship.

Apprentices also have to spend at least 20% of their time (i.e. usually one day a week) completing more academic training for their profession, usually in a classroom setting, and often at a local college or university.

Apprenticeships vary in length between 1 and 6 years, depending on the profession you are training in.

Can I do an apprenticeship as a refugee or whilst an asylum seeker?

In the UK, refugees (those granted settled refugee status) have open access to the job market and so can legally take part in any apprenticeship. However, the rules are a little different for people seeking asylum (who have not had their claim accepted).

If you have been in the UK for 6 months without your asylum claim receiving a response, you are eligible to apply for and start an apprenticeship. This is also the case if you have appealed against a rejection of your application and, after 6 months, you still have not received a reply to your repeal.

This is different from other forms of paid work; if you want to take up any other form of work, you have to wait for 12 months without a response before you can apply for a permit.

If you are seeking asylum and thinking of applying for an apprenticeship, you should discuss this with your case handler.

What are the benefits of doing an apprenticeship as a refugee or an asylum seeker?

Apprenticeships teach you tangible, hands-on skills that are designed to make you job-ready as soon as you leave the programme. This means that you are more likely to be able to secure a steady income quickly and easily.

If you have not had a job before, or do not have experience with skilled work, then hands-on training that allows you to earn while you learn might be perfect for you.

If you are still developing your English skills, it might suit you better to complete a training course with less written work and reading, and more practical work. Working as an apprentice is also likely to include one-on-one or small group training, which is ideal to help you improve your spoken English skills and form social connections in the UK.

As above, a big benefit is that if you are seeking asylum you can start an apprenticeship (and start earning an income) 6 months earlier than you can apply to start any other form of paid work.

Where can I find apprenticeships?

At Sona Circle Recruitment we have partnered with apprenticeship provider WhiteHat to advertise apprenticeships to refugees on our website. You can take a look at the apprenticeships currently available here.

There are also many other ways you can find apprenticeships that work for you or operate in your area. You can visit the website of your local college, university or training centre to see if they partner with local companies to offer apprenticeship training.

There are also a lot of searchable apprenticeship boards online, such as the government’s dedicated site, apprenticeships.gov.uk or on the UCAS website. If there is a particular company you are interested in working with, you can contact them directly to see if they offer an apprenticeship programme.

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Transferring International Qualifications to the UK: A Guide for Refugees and Asylum Seekers

Refugee QualificationsReading Time: 5 minutes

 

 

by Zoe Allen, Sona Circle

Why Do I Need to Transfer my Qualifications?

As a refugee, if you worked in a career you loved and enjoyed in your home country, you would probably love to continue practising it in the UK. However, you need to know whether your qualifications would be accepted as proof of your skills, or allow you to get accredited for your career of choice, in the UK.

Even if you didn’t have a specific career, you probably still achieved some qualifications, either at school or at university level. These can be used to help you gain a more interesting and valuable job, rather than having to enter the UK job market at an entry-level.

Your qualifications will probably be in the language of your home country, and therefore not accessible to most recruiters. Moreover, your home country probably provided different courses and grading systems to the equivalent courses in the UK.

For some careers, such as law, the training you undertook might not have fully prepared you for practising law in the UK, and there may be more training you need to do in order to be able to practice to the correct standards whilst in the UK.

Therefore, making sure your qualifications are transferred, translated, or topped-up, is essential for many career paths in the UK.

Below, we have outlined the official way to get your qualifications translated (a NARIC Statement of Compatibility), linked some guides on how school and degree level qualifications may translate, and provided advice on working in sectors that need specific assessments.

A Note on International Qualifications for Employers

If you are reading this as an employer thinking of recruiting refugees and wondering what qualifications to accept, we encourage you to have an open mind and be receptive to considering non-UK qualifications.

Check with your industry regulatory body about what qualifications would be acceptable for certifications, if needed, or that would be equivalent to the qualifications you would expect in the UK.

You can also point refugee applicants towards this article, or encourage them to complete a NARIC Statement of Compatibility.

NARIC Statement of Compatibility

The easiest way to transfer your qualifications to the UK and apply for jobs is to apply for a NARIC Statement of Compatibility. This is a national UK government-supported institution that evaluates your training and skills and produces an official report that employers can read (alongside a CV and cover letter) to understand what qualifications and skills you have.

You can apply online on the NARIC website here, and get your report within 2 weeks. A NARIC qualification currently costs £59.40.

A Statement of Compatibility will be extremely useful for many roles, but for some specific careers, especially those where you need a special certification to practice them, you may need to take part in extra training or assessments. You can read more on this below, including some examples for specific sectors.

Notes on Translating Qualifications

You may find other services offering to translate or compare your qualifications, but be wary of these.

NARIC is the only universally-accepted certification (as it is supported by the UK government) and any other translating services – or doing it yourself – may not be accurate and employers may not consider them.

That being said, it may be useful to have a general idea of how your school or degree qualifications would translate in the UK. We have included some information below and some useful links.

Use these as guidelines for working out what kind of roles you could be qualified for, then contact the recruiter. Explain your situation and ask what format they would like you to include your qualification in on your application. If you have a Statement of Compatibility, tell them you can add this to the application too.

Also, it is worth knowing that some large, international companies may provide information on what international qualifications they accept, or how to convert your qualifications for that application, on their website. Here is an example on the KPMG Careers website.

Translating International School-Level Qualifications

The Graduate Recruitment Bureau (GRB) has a useful guide which provides information on estimated equivalents for school-level grades in lots of countries, translated into A-Level qualifications. A-Level qualifications are taken by most UK students at the end of their school career, between ages 16 and 18.

Recruiters (or universities) may ask for your results in UCAS points equivalent. UCAS points are a system to show the total of all your grades so that universities can easily compare students. Use the second table on the GRB page (linked above) to work out your grade equivalents, and then the first table to work out your UCAS points

Translating International Degree (University) Qualifications

Most degree qualifications can usually be equated to UK qualifications. Again, the GRB has a guide on how to assess your qualifications.

If you have done any kind of university study in the UK (for example, a Master’s degree on top of a Bachelor’s degree that was taken in your home country), then contact your university’s admissions office to ask if they translated your undergraduate degree results when you applied, as this could also give an indication of their UK equivalency.

Translating International Career-Specific Qualifications

If you want to continue practising a specific career that you are already qualified for such as:

  • Law
  • Dentistry
  • Teaching
  • Construction
  • Nursing

 

You will need to be registered with the correct industry body and certified in the UK. For your industry, search for the industry body online and contact them to ask what international qualifications they accept and how you can translate your training to work in the UK.

For many industries, you will need to take a qualification examination or assessment to allow you to join the industry registry. For some, such as nursing, you may need to re-train completely. This changes from industry to industry, so getting in contact with your industry regulatory body is the easiest way to find out more.

As a guide, here are some examples of careers which need accreditation and specific qualifications, and what you have to do to practice them in the UK.

Law/Solicitor
To practice law as a solicitor in the UK, you will need to take a Solicitor’s Qualifying Examination (SQE) to certify in the UK, but you do not need to retrain. You can read more on the Law Society website.

Teaching
The UK government website provides information on how to gain Qualified Teacher Status (QTS) in the UK. For some, this will mean carrying out an accredited teacher training programme, or, if you already have a degree, you may only have to carry out an assessment to gain your QTS.

Dentistry
According to the British Dentistry Journal, if you are from outside the EU, you will usually have to sit the General Dentistry Council’s Overseas Registration Exam (ORE) and demonstrate your proficiency in English, too. This will allow you to qualify to be part of the GDC and then practice in the UK.

Construction
NARIC offers a Statement of Comparability for Construction which will help you apply for a CSCS card, which is needed to practice construction in the UK.

Who can help?

Translating your qualifications to work in the UK isn’t always easy, and can be expensive. It’s important to work with employers, be open and honest with them, and explain your situation.

Remember that larger employers may have experienced the same thing before and have more resources to help you translate, but smaller companies may have more flexibility to accept alternative qualifications and hire you based on other factors.

Consider contacting refugee employment charities, such as Sona Circle Recruitment, who can connect you with employers with more open and refugee-friendly recruitment practices. Some may also be able to directly assist you in translating your qualifications or provide financial support.

If you need more training on top of your qualifications before following a career path, consider taking part in Sona Circle Recruitment’s refugee internship scheme, which provides 3 month paid internships in exciting new startups to help boost your CVs.

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Refugees in Business and Entrepreneurship

Refugee Business EntrepreneurshipReading Time: 3 minutes

 

Refugee Business Entrepreneurship

 

by Katy Cottrell, Sona Circle

Historically, refugees have had great success in business and entrepreneurship around the world. From Michael Marks, a Jewish refugee who became the co-founder of Marks and Spencers in 1884, to Jan Koum who fled to the United States from Kiev and later became the co-founder and CEO of Whatsapp, refugees have used their hard work and a wide skill set to innovate and prosper in business.

Hamdi Ulkykaya, Chobani

A great example of this is Hamdi Ulkykaya who in 2005 founded the food company Chobani, which is the number one selling strained yoghurt in the United States. As of 2019, Ulkykaya was worth $2 billion and was named one of the most important entrepreneurs of the past decade by Inc. magazine.

However, prior to this success, Ulkykaya was forced to leave Turkey due to the oppression that the Kurdish minority group faced. Based on his own experiences as a refugee, Ulkykaya has demonstrated how to be successful in business whilst also protecting vulnerable people. In 2015, he announced that he would donate the majority of his wealth to help refugees around the world.

Additionally, within his own business, Ulkykaya ensures that a minimum of 30% of employees are immigrants or refugees. In order to hold other businesses to a similar standard, Ulkykaya set up the TENT foundation which encourages businesses to support refugees by hiring them and integrating refugee-led businesses into supply chains.

Mursal Hedayat, Chatterbox

Mursal and her success in the tech industry is another example of a former refugee thriving in business. Despite being forced to flee Afghanistan with her mother and sister early in life, Hedayat was named one of the Top Most Influential Leaders in Tech by the Financial Times and a Leading Innovator Under 35 by MIT.

This is thanks to her success in co-founding Chatterbox, an online language and cultural training programme which harnesses the skills and knowledge-base of refugees by employing them as teachers. So far over 6,000 Chatterbox classes have been taught since 2018, simultaneously helping learners develop their language ability and refugees build up their confidence and professional skills.

The Entrepreneurial Refugee Network (TERN)

In order to support refugees, so that they can replicate similar success in business to Hamdi Ulkykaya and Mursal Hedayat, the Entrepreneurial Refugee Network (TERN) provides assistance to refugee entrepreneurs in the creation and development of their businesses. TERN currently supports 210 refugee entrepreneurs and has alumni who have gone on to have great success in their field.

Fatma Albaiti, Meet Me at Fatma’s

For example, Fatma Albaiti is a TERN alumnus who set up Meet Me at Fatma’s, a London-based Yemeni pop-up brunch. These events have routinely sold out and been popular with Londoners for providing delicious food as well as educating people about Yemeni culture. TERN assists refugee-led businesses through mentoring, and providing access to resources and business networks.

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If you are able to, it’s great to support refugee-led businesses. There are many ways in which you can show your support for businesses that are founded by refugees. For example, you can broaden your culinary horizons by visiting different restaurants, or by exploring different cultures via refugee-led music and entertainment events (read more about it here).

Another essential way to show your support is by encouraging your organisation to employ refugees. In this way, you can help to create truly life-changing opportunities for refugees and support them with further integration in their adopted home country. If you’re wondering how to start these conversations at your office, get in touch as we’d love to help. Check out some tips here.

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Ode to London: The Melting Pot

Brixton LondonReading Time: 2 minutes

 

Brixton London

 

by Katie McAdam, Sona Circle

For millennia, London has welcomed people across the globe to live together in the same city.

Central to London’s development was the influence of early Roman, Viking and Norman traders. In more recent times, the city has accommodated many; from the famed Windrush generation to EU migrants.

However, forced migration has also been as influential in shaping its streets. Generations of refugees have been hosted in the city, which can trace its roots to the Middle Ages, with Huguenots seeking freedom from religious persecution. These various patterns of immigration to the city have each left their own unique influence. Migration continues to form a huge part of the city’s impressive history and dynamic present.

With every one in three Londoners born abroad, the city is truly international. Due to this multiculturalism, London is considered to be a melting pot, whereby native Londoner’s mix with those of many backgrounds but are all united by the city’s common culture.

The city’s ethnically diverse population draws many to settle in London. What makes London so significant; is this cosmopolitan nature.

Due to its international outlook, and wealth of opportunity, the city has been branded as a global centre, attracting many to migrate here.

Access to internationally renowned universities such as the London School of Economics, University College London and Kings College London, help improve Londoners’ employment prospects and broaden their horizons in both the public and private sectors.

London is the nation’s nerve centre. The city boasts world-leading opportunities, particularly in the financial, legal and media sectors. With the success of various generations of migrants, many are hopeful they too can thrive in the city.

Indeed, the capital’s status, particularly its cultural presence, is defined by the contributions of an ethnically diverse population.

With each nationality that moves to London, each adds their own unique flavour to the city’s melting pot. London’s renowned culinary scene owes greatly to the contributions of immigrants. Bengali curries, Chinese dumplings and Turkish kebabs are as much of a London staple as the British Sunday roast.

The capital’s diverse cultural makeup makes for a vibrant cultural calendar. The annual Notting Hill Carnival has its origins in the Afro-Caribbean community and is one of London’s most beloved festivals.

A testament to London’s successful micro-culture is the influence it has on shaping the rest of the nation.

Indeed, many British innovations can often be traced to the capital. However, London is not the only diverse city in the nation, with similar cities adding to the UK’s multicultural tradition. Birmingham, Leicester, Manchester and Bradford all present a model for ethnic diversity which echoes the success of London.

With its vibrant past, vast opportunities and multicultural community, London’s melting pot status will continue to attract migrants to the city. London’s heritage of welcoming migrants and particularly refugees has created an atmosphere which encourages further ethnic diversity.

In an international city, London has evolved with the contributions of its rapidly changing demographics.

London does not just welcome migration, but is defined by it.

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5 Great Initiatives Supporting Refugee Integration in the UK

Refugee IntergrationReading Time: 3 minutes

 

 

by Katie McAdam, Sona Circle

Settling into a new country can be very daunting for many refugees. Language barriers, new cultures and lack of social connections make integration a difficult process. Integration is vital not only for improving local community relationships but also for reducing the problem of social isolation among refugees.

Those who are socially isolated experience a lower quality of life and have less access to services and employment. Various initiatives, from small community groups to international projects have emerged to foster the integration of refugees. Below are five great initiatives supporting refugee integration in the UK.

1. Migrant English Project

Overcoming language barriers is one of the most effective integration methods. Refugees with adequate language skills are more likely to access services, obtain employment and be able to form social connections.

Community language groups such as the Brighton based Migrant English Project, help refugees to practice their language with locals in an informal setting. By chatting with locals, refugees acquire not only the language but social connections within the community. The volunteer’s wealth of local knowledge is also helpful to advise refugees on legal, housing and health matters.

2. Integration of Refugees Through Sport (IRTS)

Integration can take a more activity-based approach and act as a fun way for refugees to connect with their communities over a common interest. Sports initiatives such as the European wide IRTS, have been particularly popular initiatives.

IRTS helps fund various local groups to run sports clubs which connect refugees and their communities through sports such as football and table tennis. These projects improve both refugees’ mental and physical wellbeing, as refugees can keep fit whilst making new friends.

Bonding over a shared interest also allows local people to find common ground with refugees and decreases the likelihood of stigmatisation towards refugees. When integration is based on having fun with others, it feels less clinical and more like community spirit.

3. Refugee Survival Trust’s Glasgow

Befriending schemes help refugees to build deeper connections with the community on an individual level. The Glasgow based Refugee Survival Trust’s Glasgow Welcome programme matches refugees with a partner whom they meet up with to explore cultural sites in the city.

Touring local sites allows refugees to learn about the city and feel more connected to their host community. As the programme occurs fortnightly over six months, this enables refugees to develop a closer relationship with their volunteer.

4. Culture Kitchen by Culture Connect

Food-based projects are a delicious way to bring people together and is something universally enjoyed. Newcastle based Culture Connect is a volunteer-run charity which regularly hosts the community lunch programme, Culture Kitchen.

Most of the volunteers are refugees and asylum seekers who find a great sense of purpose in cooking for their communities. The scheme gives refugees the opportunity to share their culture through good food. Additionally, the lunches provide refugees with a social space to chat with locals.

5. LINK IT

Ensuring that refugees have the skills and knowledge about their adopted communities early on in the process is vital for successful integration. UN-led LINK IT focuses on relocation of Syrian refugees to the EU. LINK IT fosters integration throughout a refugee’s relocation journey in offering both pre and post-arrival assistance.

The initiative’s pre-arrival orientation provides refugees with practical information so that they have realistic expectations of life in their host nation.

After arrival, employability focused information sessions help refugees’ transition into the local workforce. This support is twofold in the community with local services such as police forces, social work and health workers are given tailored information on how they can best support refugees.

The refugee experience does not end once they have received their status from their host country.

Refugees face a process of settling into and developing their lives in a new environment. Integration with local neighbours greatly improves a refugee’s wellbeing and prospects. In order to maximise refugee potential in our communities, we need to create beneficial conditions through adequate support.

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Refugees Impact on the Tech Industry

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by Katie McAdam, Sona Circle

In the 21st century, technology is present in all facets of our lives. The tech industry has become one of the most lucrative sectors in our economy and is home to some of the world’s most successful firms. From Silicon Valley to bedroom studios, refugees have and continue to play an important role in this influential sector.

Today, we take many of our advancements for granted, but we are indebted to the talent of its creators.

Indeed, the development of the Internet owes greatly to the efforts of pioneering refugees.

One of these innovations was the creation of the search engine, Google, which has become synonymous for the internet itself. Born from the experimentation of two Stanford students, the search engine Google revolutionised the way in which we access information.

After fleeing the former USSR due to anti-Semitism, Sergey Brin was part of the duo behind a wide range of tech projects from the translation service, Google Translate to the mapping service Google Earth. The company later became a part of the duo’s technology conglomerate, Alphabet which remains one of the most profitable companies on earth.

Refugee businesses have not only enhanced the economy, but helped to cause societal change.

Today’s tech visionaries follow on from the ambitions of their earlier counterparts. Indeed, the tech industry’s emphasis on employee welfare in the fun-loving workplaces like the Google HQ, with its free restaurants, slides and bowling alleys stem from its humble beginnings.

Early societal innovation included increased female empowerment within the industry thanks to refugees like Stephanie Shirley.

From an early age, Shirley showed great perseverance when she strived to create a new life in her adopted England after fleeing Nazi Germany to escape persecution. Frustrated at gender inequality within the tech industry, Shirley was inspired to create the majority female-led, Freelance Programmers in 1962.

Shirley was a trailblazer in creating reemployment in a male dominated field at a time when marriage and childbirth signaled the end of a women’s career.

The company had a unique workplace culture adopting progressive practices such as home working, profit-sharing and job-sharing. These practices in the tech industry pioneered by Shirley would be adopted by a wider business culture, creating a more equal and convenient workplaces

The wider spread of refugee efforts in the tech industry is clear in their influence on the public domain.

The valuable research committed by refugee entrepreneurs has been used to inform others, particularly in academia about various technological concerns.

One of these figures is Hungarian refugee, Andrew Grove, who found success in helping to start up microchip firm, Intel, following his settlement in America after the Hungarian Revolution.

Whilst at Intel, Grove also wrote numerous publications on business management, physics and computing with a particular research interest in semiconductors, an important part of many electrical devices. His research particularly on the ‘Objectives and Key Results’ model of business management model has influenced subsequent tech entrepreneurs including the billionaire investor John Doerr.

In an increasingly technological world, the work of refugees continues to shape our lives.

Refugees have made important contributions to the management, innovation and impact of the tech industry. Additionally, these refugee tech giants have inspired the next generation to create a better world. The next Sergey Brin’s are already behind their computer screens developing innovative technology to solve our future problems.