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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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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.

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7 Tips to Creating Refugee-Friendly Recruitment Practises

Reading Time: 3 minutes

 

 

By Zoe Allen, Sona Circle

A diverse and inclusive workplace is an asset to any business. If you have read our previous blog post on the key benefits of hiring refugees, and are now ready to integrate refugees into your workplace, congratulations on making a great business (and humanitarian) decision!

Here are our top tips for making your recruitment practices refugee-friendly.

1. Review your language requirements

Refugees may still be developing their English language skills, and therefore job descriptions specifying a high level of English may be off-putting. Of course, some jobs, such as some content writing roles, will require a thorough knowledge of the English language, but many roles will not.

Have a second think through your role requirements to see what level of language skills is absolutely necessary.

In addition, consider whether key instructions and documents could be translated to different languages to accommodate refugee candidates and employees.

To make your roles even more accessible to refugees, you can embed English language training into your workplace. Currently, refugees can access funding for English tuition whilst unemployed and looking for a job, why not support their development by continuing this training in the workplace.

2. Support refugees to transfer qualifications

Many refugees have prior qualifications, attended university, or were previously employed in skilled employment; however the majority end up working in manual or unskilled labour in the UK.

It is important for employers to be open to helping refugees prove and verify their qualifications, by working with regulatory and industry bodies, or by consulting the NARIC (National Academic Recognition Information Centre).

This will allow refugees to access employment that fits their skills and interests which will be both much more rewarding for refugees and also enable employers to benefits from the full knowledge and talents of their employees.

3. Support employee’s mental health

The long hours and demands on employees in the workplace can be stressful for us all. More employers across the country are coming to realise the importance of supporting their employee’s mental health.

This requirement is even more critical when working with refugees who have often had to overcome traumatic experiences before arriving at their host countries.

Making sure your workplace prioritises the mental health of employees, such as by allowing mental health sick days and creating a supportive and open environment around mental health, will help refugees (and other employees!) feel much more comfortable and also perform better.

4. Offer internships and apprenticeships

Internships and apprenticeships, which provide on-the-job-training, can help refugees ease more gradually into the UK workplace, gain new skills, improve existing ones, learn about the workplace culture and also gain confidence.

As with job applications, try to ensure that entry requirements for internships and apprenticeships are accessible to refugees, for example by reviewing the language requirements.

More information and support on refugee internship and apprenticeship programmes can be found on the Sona Circle website.

5. Publicise inclusivity in your workplace

Being a socially conscious and inclusive organisation is something to be very proud of. Be sure to let the world know that your practises are aligned with your values. Your actions could inspire others to follow suit. As a thought leader in the marketplace, this is your responsibility.

Make it clear on your website, social media and PR campaigns and also on job adverts, that you are a refugee-friendly, diverse and inclusive employer.

Share the steps you are taking to make your workplace inclusive, such as by making space for religious holidays or setting up a Cultural Awareness Network.

6. Combat unconscious bias by educating employees

To make your workplace even more inclusive, be sure you are promoting inclusion and diversity at all levels.

This can include delivering unconscious bias training to all employees, rather than just for the hiring managers. Engage senior management in the refugee hiring programme, and offer training to supervisors to help them support their refugee hires.

This will all lead to the creation of a positive, diverse workplace environment, not only for refugees, but for all employees.

7. Find a partner to help you recruit refugee candidates

Get in touch with the friendly and supportive team at Sona Circle Recruitment to help you access refugee talent for your business and for advice with your recruitment process.

At Sona Circle Recruitment, we offer refugee employment and internship programmes for employers to recruit talented and committed employees.

We simplify the process by selecting a pool of great candidates who fit your requirements, before you interview the candidates and make your selection.

If you aren’t hiring right now, you can show your support by donating to the Sona Circle Refugee Employment Campaign. Sona Circle is a non-profit social enterprise and 100% of donations go directly to helping create employment opportunities for refugees.

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6 Ways to Convince your Employer to Hire Refugees

Reading Time: 2 minutes

 

 

By Katy Cottrell, Sona Circle

If you feel passionately about workplace equality and the social integration of refugees, addressing a lack of diversity in your own workspace is a great place to start. But having these types of conversations with your employers can be difficult, which is why we have created a list of key points that you can use to convince your boss to hire refugees.

1. Consumers care about diversity and inclusion

If your employer is reluctant to hire refugees, it’s good to point out that consumers are increasingly concerned with the ethical values of the businesses they support. For example, in 2017 the Cone Communications CSR study found that 78% of consumers say they want companies to address important social justice issues. Additionally, 87% said they would purchase a product because a company advocated for an issue they cared about.

With an increase in awareness of systemic racism and racial bias, thanks to the Black Lives Matter protests, this stance is likely to gain some traction. Therefore, hiring refugees may have the advantage of satisfying socially conscious customers.

2. You could attract other skilled labour

Additionally, research has shown that millennials specifically want to work for companies that are more diverse and inclusive, and this affects which jobs they apply to. A study by Deloitte also found that millennials are more engaged with their jobs when they perceive their workplaces to be more inclusive.

3. Refugees have a variety of employable skills

One reason many companies are reluctant to employ refugees is out of a perception that they lack relevant experience. However, often refugees’ valuable qualifications and overseas experience are not recognised by UK employers. Therefore, the refugee population could be a large skilled workforce with untapped potential.
It’s a good idea to encourage your employer to be more open-minded about the types of previous experience and qualifications that could be highly relevant to their business.

4. You should practice what you preach

If your employer likes to pride themselves on being socially conscious or ‘human centric’, it’s worth reminding them that hiring refugees and creating a more diverse workplace, is a great way to prove that they really are.

5. You could be nominated for a diversity award

In various employment sectors there are a growing number of awards for diversity and inclusion. Examples include, the Employee Engagement Awards and the Inclusive Company Awards. Being awarded with recognition for workplace diversity is something a company can pride themselves on, and will illustrate to consumers that they are dedicated to inclusivity.

6. Sona Circle Recruitment can help

At Sona Circle Recruitment, we connect socially conscious employers with the skilled and dependable refugee workforce in the UK. Our refugee internship programme matches qualified and committed members of the refugee workforce with exciting new start-ups and growth businesses.

How else can I help?

You can also 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.

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5 Key Benefits to Hiring Refugees

Reading Time: 3 minutes

 

 

By Zoe Allen, Sona Circle

Hiring refugees in your small business or start-up has a whole host of benefits that simply don’t get enough attention. Without a wide range of skills and talent, a business runs the risk of stagnating. Hiring refugee interns to access a highly motivated and diverse talent pipeline is the ideal way to combat this.

What’s more, refugees consistently face barriers to employment in the UK, so hiring refugees allows you to help others whilst still growing your business. It’s a win-win situation for all involved!

Below are five key benefits to hiring refugees that every SME and start-up should know about:

1. Diversify your workforce

Your business can directly benefit from ethnic and cultural diversity. Research by McKinsey & Company found that teams that are more culturally and ethnically diverse are 33% more likely to be more profitable than their less-diverse competitors.

Refugees are not a homogenous group, and come from a wide range of backgrounds, so taking on refugee interns or staff can hugely increase the diversity of your business. Drawing from this wide range of candidates from all over the world can greatly help diversify thinking and skillsets within your business, leading to vastly improved innovation and growth.

2. Access skilled and qualified candidates

Refugees are often highly skilled and experienced. Research from the Nuffield Foundation found that nearly half of the refugees surveyed held a qualification before coming to the UK, and Deloitte found that 38% of refugees surveyed had a University education. Refugees have a wide range of talents and professional skills, and due to their experiences have often developed enormous resilience and adaptability.

In addition, refugees are likely to be proficient in a number of languages other than English, which can be another asset to businesses growing into international markets.

3. Increase employee communication and empathy

Encouraging employees to interact with refugees from different cultural and ethnic backgrounds will develop soft skills such as effective communication, empathy and teamwork.

We suggest using ‘buddy’ schemes to support refugee hires, to help employees develop these skills with the intern they are supporting. This interaction will encourage innovative and new thinking throughout the whole team, facilitated by the inclusion of the new refugee intern or employee.

4. Keep roles filled by ideal candidates

73% of employers surveyed in the US found that refugees had higher retention rates than other employees, so hiring refugees will allow you to keep this great new talent for longer which significantly reduces recruitment and training costs and encourages uninterrupted business continuity.

Sona Circle Recruitment’s refugee internship programme can help your business recruit a targeted talent pipeline, which can be developed into a dedicated and committed long-term workforce.

5. Decrease unconscious employee bias

Creating opportunities for your employees to work alongside a diverse refugee workforce will both enable employees to develop new skills and ideas, while also reducing staff’s unconscious bias.

This will increase workplace cohesion and integration, boost staff morale and improve teamwork. You’ll create a diverse and committed team, which recognises the importance of a fair and socially progressive workplace.

So how can Sona Circle Recruitment help you?

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

Our mission in 2020 is to create up to 100 new employment opportunities for refugees in the UK and we now need your support to achieve this ambitious target.

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.