Posted on Leave a comment

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.

Posted on Leave a comment

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”.

Posted on Leave a comment

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.

Posted on Leave a comment

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.

Posted on Leave a comment

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.

——————————————————————————————————————————

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.

Posted on Leave a comment

Germany’s Progressive Approach to Refugees and Asylum Seekers

Reading Time: 3 minutes

 

 

by David Cregan, Sona Circle

To understand Germany’s current policy on refugees and asylum seekers, you need to revisit the post Second World War period, 1945-1960. This 15 year period transformed a destroyed West Germany into its current economic powerhouse that we know today. There was a significant movement of refugees back to Germany from other parts of Europe at that time that of course, had to be resettled.

During this period it is estimated that there were 7 million refugees in Germany, many of which were resettled in countries around Europe, the Americas and Australia who were less affected by the war.

However, for the most part, these refugees (usually of German ethnicity) were granted full citizenship in Germany.

As East Germany took a differing route with a communist dictatorship, West Germany was taking a socially liberal route. From the 1960s, with a booming economy, and a shortage of skilled workers, companies made recruitment agreements that welcomed many new workers (Die Gästarbeiter – The guest workers).

These were economic migrants from Italy, Turkey, Spain, Portugal and Greece and although agreements were supposed to expire, the majority were allowed to stay and began integrating into German society.

Having direct experience of large numbers of refugees within its borders, and understanding the economic power of migrants, Germany was ideally placed to understand the situation unfolding between 2014 and 2016 as the flow of refugees from the Syrian conflict began.

During this time the number of new asylum applications rose from 173,072 in 2014 to 722,370 in 2016. Although this returned to 161,931 applications in 2018 it remains double the 10 year average of 78,000 today.

It is fair to say, Germany has been and still is a leader in accepting refugees and asylum seekers.

The integration of refugees in Germany has received a significant commitment politically, economically and socially to upskill and train over 1.4 million refugees into the fabric of Germany society. This has been a challenge due to the social and cultural differences between countries and also due to the high numbers of refugees carrying the emotional and physical scars of war.

After the initial surge between 2014 and 2016, the integration efforts are beginning to pay off as thousands of refugees are attending university and participating in the workforce in higher numbers than ever before. Since 2015 Germany has had very low unemployment rates (general unemployment rate of 5.2% as of May 2020), sustained economic growth and decreasing public welfare recipients according to Statista.

However, Germany does not hide the fact that unemployment and underemployment remain a massive drawback to social progress and integration. Several measures have helped in this area, for example, making work permit decisions faster and easier to understand; which was initially a big issue given the volume of applications which have gradually reduced in time.

Refugee skills were being assessed after a 2-3 year application process which led to training gaps and delays depending on which region the refugees were located. Standardisation of language skills between the Federal Office for Migration and Jobcentres has been improving but is still not perfectly aligned with the needs of both companies and refugees.

Many refugees have taken advantage of the vocational and apprenticeship programmes (Berufsausbildung) where they can be sponsored by a company in need of a specific skill. This has been especially effective at advancing employment opportunities against the challenge of differing educational and qualification standards, with a great deal of success in Berlin, Munich, Hamburg and Cologne where large numbers of refugees are searching for work.

What has been great to see is civil society playing a key role in helping an unprecedented number of refugees and asylum seekers to integrate into their community.

In 2016 alone it was reported that 11% of all Germans contributed either actively or through donations. This is a vital and frequently underestimated part of meeting the basic needs and social integration of new arrivals.

Also, a study from the OECD conducted in Germany found that almost 80% of participating employers who hired asylum seekers and refugees did so at least in part because of this sense of social responsibility.

With integration courses offering language and numerical skills as well as labour market functioning courses, integration has been for the most part successful, albeit a slow process.

At Sona Circle Recruitment, we connect socially conscious employers with the skilled and dependable refugee workforce in the UK.

Our refugee internship and employment programmes match qualified and committed members of the refugee workforce with exciting new start-ups and growth businesses.

You can learn more about our refugee employment programmes here. Alternatively, you can show your support by donating to the Sona Circle Refugee Employment Fund where 100% of donations go directly to supporting refugee employment in the UK.

Posted on Leave a comment

Refugees Impact on the Tech Industry

Reading Time: 3 minutes

 

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.

Posted on Leave a comment

Are Refugees and Asylum Seekers’ Allowed to Work in the UK?

Reading Time: 3 minutes

 

 

by Katy Cottrell, Sona Circle

The terms ‘refugee’ and ‘asylum seeker’ are often confused by many people and have incorrectly been used interchangeably.

Though to many people, these terms may seem like they mean the same thing, there are important distinctions between refugees and asylum seekers which have implications for their legal right to work.

To clarify any misconceptions, we have created this quick guide to explain who can and cannot legally work in the UK.

Firstly, what is the difference between a refugee and an asylum seeker?

Asylum seekers are those who have fled their home country as a result of war, persecution or any other factors harming themselves or their family, however are still seeking international protection.

If an asylum seekers’ claim is accepted by their host country, they are then classified as a refugee which provides them with the rights agreed upon in the 1951 refugee convention.

Do refugees have the right to work in the UK?

The short answer to this is yes, absolutely.

Legally, refugees are allowed to work in any profession and at any skill level, and they are also protected against workplace discrimination in the UK.

Are asylum seekers allowed to work in the UK?

Unlike refugees, those who are still seeking asylum are, for the most part, not legally allowed to work in the UK.

However, there are some exceptions.

For example, asylum seekers can apply for permission to work if they have waited for over 1 year for a decision on their asylum claim, and they themselves are not responsible for the delay in decision making.

This however, is still restricted, and asylum seekers who have been given permission to work for these reasons can only apply for jobs on the UK’s Official Shortage Occupation List.

Are asylum seekers allowed to do apprenticeships in the UK?

In general most asylum seekers are not allowed to start apprenticeships in the UK, though there are some exceptions.

Those who have lived in the UK for 6 months or longer with no decision being made on their claim, and those who are under the care of children’s services may be able to start an apprenticeship.

If asylum seekers cannot work, what can they do with their skills and time?

Although asylum seekers are not legally allowed to work, in 2013 the Home Office updated their guidance, stating that asylum seekers are allowed to volunteer regardless of the status of their claim.

Asylum Seekers can contribute and develop their skills by volunteering in both the public and non-profit sectors.

Is anything being done to give asylum seekers the right to work?

Asylum seekers inability to work in the UK has become a topic of debate thanks to Refugee Action’s Lift the Ban Campaign, which aims to give asylum seekers the right to work.

This campaign is rooted in the fact that asylum seekers are given just £5.39 per day to purchase food, sanitary products, and clothing from the UK government.

What Refugee Action has found through their campaign is that asylum seekers want to contribute to their host country and provide for themselves and their families rather than relying on the government.

If you’re interested in this campaign, you can find Refugee Action’s petition here. For more information about hiring refugees and asylum seekers in the UK, visit our website www.sonacircle.com where you can also get in contact with us.

Posted on Leave a comment

Global Connectivity and Today’s Refugees

Reading Time: 3 minutes

 

 

by Katy Cottrell, Sona Circle

In the past, refugees have often been perceived as isolated individuals, struggling to become fully integrated and to understand the culture of their host country.

Although refugees still face various barriers to integration, globalisation and developments in technology have given refugees more agency to integrate themselves into new societies.

This is a great development for refugees (integration is linked to better mental health amongst refugees) which also have an array of benefits for their host communities.

Access to technology and social media is unique to refugees of this century, in fact, a recent study by GSMA found that as many as two-thirds of refugees in Jordan, Rwanda and Uganda are regular mobile phone users.

Not only does this allow refugees to connect globally and provide support for one another, but researchers from the Erasmus University Rotterdam found that access to technology has also been shown to improve refugees’ language skills and cultural understanding of their host country.

Additionally, research from City University of London has shown that refugees use social networking sites to search for jobs, housing and to understand practical issues within their host countries. This means that now more than ever, refugees are able to have greater control over their ability to integrate themselves, interact with those in their community, and develop an understanding of their host culture.

Living in a more globally connected world also means that there are more pre-migration cultural similarities between refugees and western host countries.

One example of this is refugee style and fashion, which has been illustrated by the “Sneakers Like Jay-Z’s” art exhibition by photographers Frédéric Delangle and Ambroise Tézenas. This exhibition was inspired by a refugee from Afghanistan who, when selecting a pair of shoes from a donation bank in Paris, asked if there were any trainers that were “not too ugly, more like Jay-Z’s”. This exhibition was great for showcasing both refugees’ awareness of western trends and their motivation to become integrated through their appearance.

One 24 year old refugee from Chad explained that he chose a particular coat because it made him feel “on equal footing with everyone else. When you come to someone’s country, I think it’s only natural to adapt to the way they live there”.

However, it is not only the nature of refugees that has changed as a result of greater global connectivity. There has also been a change in the aims and targets of western companies who are often looking to develop their business into new markets.

Refugees are increasingly becoming desirable candidates due to their greater awareness of diverse cultural customs, foreign country markets and their language skills.

On top of this, refugees are often highly skilled and qualified professionals who could bring a range of other skills to their workplace. Therefore, not only have globalisation and technological advancements brought about a change in the nature of refugees, but it has also created a demand in the West for international links, which refugees are perfectly positioned to provide.

It is however, important to remember that just because today’s refugees have access to technology that makes it easier for them to integrate, they still require support from their host countries in order to do this effectively.

Refugees will be unable to assimilate and contribute their valuable skills, if not given the opportunities to do so.

That’s where we come in. Sona Circle Recruitment connects the skilled and dependable refugee workforce with local employment opportunities.

If you’d like to get involved, please visit the Sona Circle website (www.sonacircle.com) where you can read more about our refugee employment programmes. You can also make a donation to the Sona Circle Refugee Employment Fund where 100% of donations go directly towards supporting refugee employment in the UK.

Posted on Leave a comment

Refugees & COVID-19: Why the Ability to Self-Isolate is a Luxury

Reading Time: 2 minutes

 

 

By Aanya Bhandari, Sona Circle

In an appallingly short span of time, the COVID-19 pandemic has had a calamitous global effect, touching nearly every country and territory. As is the case with any catastrophic event, certain groups are left more vulnerable than others. One such group in this instance is refugees.

Refugees face immense barriers to accessing healthcare and taking preventive measures which others might take for granted, including regular hand-washing, sanitation facilities and of course, the ability to self- isolate.

A study by the University of Birmingham shows that many undocumented migrants are apprehensive about seeking medical help, for the fear of being reported to immigration authorities and being deported. As a result, they are often left to suffer in silence.

Even in normal times, those living as refugees, migrants, or internally displaced due to conflict, environmental disasters or extreme poverty, face physical and psychological barriers to integration. However, due to the pandemic restrictions, which have put a halt to economic activity globally, groups of individuals that were once extremely vulnerable are now struggling to survive.

Employment opportunities which were previously available in the informal economy have vanished, resulting in a loss of income opportunities and an increase in economic hardships for millions.

As UK unemployment claims have soared by nearly 70% since April 2020, we’re left to imagine the impact on refugees, considering the refugee unemployment rate has historically been three times as high as that of the British population.

While many NGOs and governmental organisations are working to stabilise the situation on the economic front, COVID-19 has no geographic borders or language barriers, and self-isolation is far from becoming a reality in major refugee camps around the world. Refugees residing in shelters, shared lodgings and overcrowded housing with common kitchens and toilets are simply unable to self-isolate, bolstering health risks and concerns about contracting the virus.

According to an emergency release by UNHCR, 134 refugee hosting countries have reported local transmission of COVID-19 within camps, including Bangladesh which hosts almost 1 million Rohingya refugees from Myanmar, with 600,000 concentrated in the Kutupalong-Balukhali expansion site.

Consequently, local NGOs have cut down on the number of volunteers going into refugee camps to decrease the risk of bringing in the virus. As a result, many initiatives that support refugees, including education, skill development, and mental health counseling sessions, have been stopped.

The cumulative effect of the economic, social, psychological, and medical complications has caused an unprecedented disruption to the lives of millions of refugees.

As the world economy struggles to re-stabilise, the global community must work together and demonstrate solidarity to ensure that the human rights and protection of forcibly displaced people are preserved.

While you’re surrounded by your loved ones, in the safety and comfort of your homes, you can show your support by making a donation (no matter how big or small) to the Sona Circle Refugee Employment Fund where 100% of donations go directly to supporting refugee employment in the UK, via our Just Giving page.

https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/sonacircle