New Scots: refugee integration strategy 2018 to 2022

The New Scots refugee integration strategy sets out an approach to support the vision of a welcoming Scotland.

Communities, Culture and Social Connections

" Everyone has the right freely to participate in the cultural life of the community, to enjoy the arts and to share in scientific advancement and its benefits."

Article 27 (1) Universal Declaration of Human Rights

A community is a group of people with a common connection. They are often defined geographically to refer to a specific neighbourhood or location. However, many people feel part of a community because of a shared identity, interest or experience. This can include disabled people, minority ethnic groups, young people or people with experience of the asylum system. These communities can cross geographic and demographic boundaries. Communities create the potential for collective action to respond to challenges and opportunities, as well as support structures, which can facilitate integration and a sense of belonging. These can, in turn, improve community safety and cohesion.

Refugees and asylum seekers have been forced to leave communities in their home country. Some will feel the loss of those communities more strongly than others. For some, the reason they had to leave and seek safety elsewhere has been due to persecution associated with their membership of a particular community. Others may have been persecuted by a local community, because they did not hold particular views or belong to a particular community. It is important that those working to support refugees and asylum seekers in Scotland recognise this and support people to develop social connections and their own communities, which meet their needs and aspirations.

Scotland's long history of welcoming refugees and asylum seekers has seen people settle, rebuild their lives and become part of communities. Established refugee communities and individuals are helping to support newly arrived refugees and asylum seekers, by sharing their knowledge and experience. Scottish Refugee Council and other community development organisations continue to support refugees to form their own community groups and forums. Refugees and asylum seekers also have much to contribute to existing community organisations and wider society.

Glasgow has the longest experience of successful integration, as refugees and asylum seekers have become part of communities across the city, with community and faith organisations welcoming them. Glasgow's Integration Networks have brought together local agencies, community groups and volunteers to plan and deliver services to refugees and asylum seekers in their areas. These networks are able to design services and activities, which suit the people living locally. The networks also share experience and good practice.

The humanitarian crisis arising from the Syrian conflict has been a catalyst for individuals and organisations throughout Scotland to welcome refugees and asylum seekers and offer support through donations, volunteering, raising awareness and humanitarian assistance abroad. Local networks have been established in many areas across Scotland to welcome new arrivals and provide initial support. This has involved local authorities working with established third sector organisations and new welcome groups to plan and deliver reception support for refugees.

Refugees Welcome Scotland has highlighted the benefits of community organisations developing strong working relationships with local authorities and relevant organisations to plan and deliver support for refugees, in its report, Best practice for community involvement in the Syrian Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Programme. [97] This has particular relevance to developing social connections, but it has also been evident that local community-led organisations can support access to services and English language skill development. The Scottish Community Development Centre is currently carrying out a survey to map and better understand community development activity across Scotland, which supports refugee integration. [98]

Establishing social connections and bonds is key to integration for refugees. Volunteering [99] and befriending [100] can benefit both the person who offers their time and skill, and the wider community they are helping. It is not only people who want to show support for refugees who are interested in volunteering. Refugees and asylum seekers have contributed their skills and experience to many different volunteer roles.

Feeling safe and secure is fundamental to people being confident to participate in communities and a key factor for refugees and asylum seekers being able to integrate. Partners have a key role to play in improving the safety and wellbeing of people, localities and communities in Scotland. For example, Police Scotland aims to increase confidence across communities, including amongst refugees and asylum seekers, by engaging proactively to prevent crime and promote safety.

Scotland's diverse cultures are important to Scotland's future, enriching all of our lives. Everyone should have the opportunity to take part in or contribute to cultural life in Scotland. Engagement in cultural activities provides benefits in a broad range of other areas including, by improving health and wellbeing, enhancing learning and skills, and strengthening social connections and community resilience. [101], [102]

The Scottish Government is currently developing a Culture Strategy for Scotland, which will take a broad view of culture in Scotland – not just that which is formal, established or indigenous, but also that which is new and emerging – and seek to ensure that anyone who wants to take part in, or contribute to cultural life in Scotland is empowered to do so. The Strategy will position culture as a human right, where the right to creative expression, the right to participate and the right to earn a living from artistic and cultural pursuits is widely recognised and supported across society.

Refugee Festival Scotland provides an annual opportunity to celebrate the contribution refugees and asylum seekers make to Scotland and the welcome offered by local people. Initially a way to mark World Refugee Day (20 June), Refugee Festival Scotland events have expanded into what is now a Scotland-wide festival, coordinated by Scottish Refugee Council and working with a vibrant network of arts, community, voluntary and educational organisations, volunteers and supporters.

Access to sports and physical recreation can not only help to improve people's health and wellbeing, but also builds social connections. Sportscotland [103] is the national agency for sport in Scotland. Its work includes a commitment that sport should be open to everyone and conducted in a way which promotes equality and respect for others. A range of policies and activities is coordinated by sportscotland, with the aim of enabling sport to have a positive impact on individuals and communities.

Communities should be supported to do things for themselves and empowered to have their voices heard in the planning and delivery of services. This helps people to engage, participate and be assets to their community. The Community Empowerment (Scotland) Act 2015 [104] strengthened the statutory base for community planning, improving the process of involving local people in decisions and services which matter to them.

Key issues identified through New Scots engagement

A great deal of feedback was received during the New Scots engagement that took place during Summer 2017, and a more detailed analysis of this will be published in 2018. However, some of the broad themes raised, which are relevant to communities, culture and social connections, include:

1. Social isolation and the desire of refugees and asylum seekers to connect to people in the communities they are settling in. This included the challenge of building friendships and social networks, particularly for people in the asylum process, people living in rural areas, women, disabled people and people in the LGBTI community.

2. The impact of the media on people's understanding and perception of refugees and asylum seekers. There were concerns raised that negative media reporting made host communities fearful of refugees and asylum seekers, which in turn impacted on their opportunities to participate, their morale and how safe they feel.

3. Sport, culture, arts, leisure and community activities were all identified as positive ways for refugees and asylum seekers to make social connections, contribute and feel part of the community. Awareness of available opportunities and understanding of how to access them can be a key issue, including entitlements to access local services and events.

Objectives and Actions

Objectives and actions for each theme contribute to the overarching New Scots outcomes. New Scots is designed to be a dynamic strategy, which is able to adapt to new and emerging issues. New actions will be developed during implementation. The following initial actions set out the work related to communities, culture and social connections, which will be progressed in the first instance:

New Scots Outcome

Objective: what we want to achieve

Action: what we will do

1. Refugees and asylum seekers live in safe, welcoming and cohesive communities and are able to build diverse relationships and connections.

Communities are aware of the needs of refugee and asylum seeker communities and actively seek to involve them in community life.

Map and assess existing local and national initiatives that prepare local communities where refugees and asylum seekers arrive, including those which promote solidarity; positive community and interfaith relationships; foster understanding of refugees and asylum seekers in schools; and tackle racism.

Develop new initiatives and share good practice and research across Scotland with statutory, voluntary and community organisations working with refugees and asylum seekers.

Social isolation experienced by refugees and asylum seekers is reduced, as they become active in their local communities.

Map and assess existing individual mentoring and orientation schemes that help refugees and asylum seekers to build social connections and develop cultural knowledge, and consider the viability of expanding to all refugees and asylum seekers in Scotland.

Promote accurate reporting of refugees and asylum seekers in the Scottish media through the Refugee Festival Scotland Media Awards, with the National Union of Journalists.

2. Refugees and asylum seekers understand their rights, responsibilities and entitlements, and are able to exercise them to pursue full and independent lives.

Refugees and asylum seekers engage in cultural, heritage and sport activities and celebrate their own culture, talents and contributions.

Promote understanding of cultural rights to refugees and asylum seekers.

Provide opportunities for refugees and asylum seekers to programme, produce work for and participate in Refugee Festival Scotland, as well as other national and local festivals.

Identify and promote existing support to refugee professional artists and cultural leaders.

3. Refugees and asylum seekers are able to access well-coordinated services, which recognise and meet their rights and needs.

Local community groups and refugee and asylum seeker-led organisations play an active role in supporting refugee integration.

Identify and share good practice in relation to partnership approaches across statutory, voluntary and community organisations, to the planning and delivery of all refugee programmes in Scotland, including asylum, resettlement and community sponsorship.

Deliver a national conference for community, faith-based and refugee-led organisations to share expertise, practice and support capacity building, with a view to developing a national network.

Clarify rights, reduce barriers and promote good practice and participation in cultural, leisure, heritage and sports opportunities.

4. Policy, strategic planning and legislation, which have an impact on refugees and asylum seekers, are informed by their rights, needs and aspirations.

The development and implementation of national legislation and strategies related to communities, culture and social connections are informed by the experiences of refugees and asylum seekers.

Ensure the voices and experiences of refugees and asylum seekers are considered within Scotland's Cultural Strategy and other national strategies related to culture, sport and heritage.

Support the inclusion of refugee integration within the implementation of existing legislation and policy related to communities, such as the requirements under the Community Empowerment (Scotland) Act 2015.


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