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.

New Scots Approach

The New Scots strategy aims to support refugees and asylum seekers in Scotland's communities. This includes people who have been granted refugee status or another form of humanitarian protection; people seeking asylum; and those whose application for asylum has been refused, but who remain in Scotland. While international law does not distinguish between refugees and asylum seekers, there is a distinction in UK immigration legislation, which means they have different rights and entitlements.

The outcomes and actions that the strategy seeks to deliver are grounded in an approach that places refugees and asylum seekers at the heart of the communities in which they reside. As such, it recognises that, for approaches to integration to succeed, they must be about working in and with local communities, as well as with refugees and asylum seekers.

The strategy recognises that refugees and asylum seekers are not a homogenous group. Although they are all seeking, or have been granted, sanctuary in the UK, they each have their own needs and aspirations. Their backgrounds, cultures, ambitions, experience and skills should be celebrated and viewed as assets, which can support their integration.

There are five principles which form the New Scots approach:

Integration From Day One

The key principle of the New Scots strategy is that refugees and asylum seekers should be supported to integrate into communities from day one of arrival, and not just once leave to remain has been granted.

Integration is the long-term, two way process, which enables people to be included in society. Evidence shows that if people are able to integrate early, particularly into education and work, they make positive contributions in communities and economically. [2] As with the first New Scots strategy, the Indicators of Integration framework [3] underpin the holistic approach being taken. This framework recognises the whole person and the impact which interdependent factors can have on how a person feels, their health and wellbeing and their opportunity to participate in society and pursue their ambitions.

A Rights Based Approach

The New Scots strategy aims to empower people to know about their rights and to understand how to exercise them.

We support refugees and asylum seekers because it is the right thing to do; people should be able to live safely and realise their human rights.

The strategy takes a holistic, human rights approach to integration that reflects both the formal international obligations the UK has and the long-standing commitment of successive Scottish Governments, and of local government in Scotland, to address the needs of refugees and asylum seekers on the basis of principles of decency, humanity and fairness.

Refugee Involvement

The New Scots strategy actively encourages refugees and asylum seekers to be involved in helping to shape the strategy and its delivery.

Over 700 refugees and asylum seekers participated in the engagement process to inform the development of this strategy in 2017. Their lived experience has been invaluable in identifying issues and actions which could support integration. Refugees and asylum seekers already engage directly with a range of services and activities run by New Scots partners, helping to build the knowledge and experience that partners bring to the strategy. The strategy will ensure that further opportunities are created for refugees, asylum seekers and communities to engage during implementation. The British Red Cross will establish an advisory group of people with lived experience. This will complement existing refugee forums, supported by the Scottish Refugee Council. [4]

Inclusive Communities

The New Scots strategy supports refugees, asylum seekers and our communities to be involved in building stronger, resilient communities, which enable everyone to be active citizens.

Integration is the process of people settling and being welcomed into a community, being able to access the services they need and to participate in society. The Indicators of Integration [5] framework recognises that integration involves positive change in both individual refugees and asylum seekers and the host communities to lead to cohesive, multi-cultural communities. The New Scots approach recognises that it is important that existing communities are supported and enabled to participate in refugee integration. Across Scotland there has been a substantial increase in the number of community groups working to welcome and support refugees in communities since 2015.

Partnership and Collaboration

The New Scots strategy has been developed collaboratively to coordinate the efforts of organisations and community groups across Scotland involved in supporting refugees and asylum seekers.

The strategy has been built on a model of partnership working, led by the Scottish Government, COSLA and the Scottish Refugee Council. The strategy also draws on the support and expertise of many partners across public services, local authorities, the third sector, the private sector and community groups, who are all working together to achieve collective goals. This approach will continue throughout the implementation of the strategy.

Refugees and Asylum Seekers in Scotland

Scotland has a long history of welcoming refugees and asylum seekers from all over the world. Refugees settled in Scotland from Europe during the first and second world wars and later from Vietnam, Bosnia, Kosovo and the Democratic Republic of Congo, among other places.

The Immigration and Asylum Act 1999 [6] began a programme of dispersing people, who had made an application for asylum, across the UK. Glasgow has been the only asylum dispersal area in Scotland. The large majority of refugees living in Scotland have arrived through the asylum system rather than resettlement programmes.

In recent years, Scotland has welcomed refugees to communities across the country through the UK Government's Syrian Resettlement Programme and Vulnerable Children's Relocation Scheme. These programmes are led by local authorities, working together with local statutory and third sector partners. Local authorities have also resettled unaccompanied children brought to the UK from Europe under section 67 of the Immigration Act 2016. They also support other Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking Children ( UASC), who have arrived in Scotland.

Some refugees arrive under Family Reunion rules to join family members who have refugee status and are already living in Scotland. Under EU law, asylum seekers in Europe, including unaccompanied children, also have rights to join family in the UK under the Dublin III regulation. [7]

Scotland's First New Scots Strategy

Scotland's first New Scots refugee integration strategy ran from 2014 – 2017. It recognised the value of partnership and established collaborative networks to make the best use of the resources and expertise available to support refugees and asylum seekers. Real progress was made in sharing good practice, identifying barriers to accessing services and raising awareness and understanding of refugees' and asylum seekers' experiences. The networks and partnerships, which the first strategy established, enabled the New Scots approach to be implemented through the direct work of organisations, as well as through collective effort. A final report of the progress made under the first New Scots strategy was published in March 2017. [8]

In 2015, the international humanitarian crisis saw the number of people forcibly displaced worldwide reach 65.3 million, including 4.9 million people newly displaced from Syria. [9] The first New Scots strategy placed Scotland in a strong position to respond. In October 2015, the UK Government made a commitment to resettle 20,000 Syrian refugees living in countries bordering Syria by 2020. [10] Scotland was quick to act, and the first Syrian refugees to arrive under the Syrian Resettlement Programme were welcomed in late 2015. All of Scotland's local authorities have volunteered to support resettlement of refugees from the Syrian conflict.

New Scots 2018 – 2022

This second New Scots strategy builds on the first strategy and is also informed by engagement which took place across Scotland over the summer of 2017. [11] The development of the strategy has also benefited greatly from the knowledge and expertise of New Scots partner organisations and wider research. It is built on a foundation of collaboration, partnership and engagement, which will be crucial to successful implementation. [12] The strategy aims to be dynamic, so that it can adapt to changing political, policy or international contexts, which have an impact on refugees and asylum seekers living in Scotland.

New Scots partners have established four overarching outcomes, which this strategy will work to achieve.

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

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

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

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

The New Scots outcomes will be progressed through actions across seven themes. Engagement for the strategy found that the six themes established for the first strategy remain relevant. However, feedback also highlighted the crucial role of language for many elements of integration, from understanding information from public services to gaining employment and participating in community activities. A new language theme has, therefore, been added for this strategy, having previously been part of the education theme.

Actions for each theme are set out in the relevant chapter.

Ensuring Equal Access

The New Scots refugee integration strategy recognises that people's personal characteristics and circumstances can have a significant impact on their journey and experience of settling in Scotland. The strategy takes a person-centred approach, grounded in equality legislation and policy, [13] which aims to benefit all refugees and asylum seekers, and their host communities.

The engagement feedback, as well as the experience of implementing the first strategy, has highlighted the needs of some refugees and asylum seekers in particular. This does not diminish recognition of the needs of all those who have protected characteristics or specific vulnerabilities.

Children and Young People

Children and young people can arrive with their families through the asylum dispersal process and through refugee resettlement programmes, or they may arrive unaccompanied. Some of these children will have had traumatic experiences in their formative years. They may also have missed significant amounts of education, which can be challenging, particularly if they are having to learn a new language. The strategy recognises that children and young people may require additional support to access the services they need and opportunities to participate in society.


Refugee and asylum seeking women can face particular challenges, which limit or prevent their integration. [14] Women's experiences in their country of origin and during their asylum journey, such as gender based violence, can create fear of how they will be treated and can impact on their mental health. Women can also be particularly isolated for a number of reasons, including: lack of confidence; disrupted or no previous access to education; less time available, due to other caring responsibilities or lack of childcare; and family opposition to socialising, learning or working. The strategy will seek to ensure that the particular needs of women refugees and asylum seekers are better understood, and that appropriate action is taken to enable their participation in the work of New Scots.


People seeking safety on the basis of their Lesbian, Gay, Bi-sexual, Transgender or Intersex ( LGBTI) identity can face particular challenges within the asylum process and as refugees. [15],[16] Experiences in their country of origin and during the asylum journey can have a significant impact on wellbeing. They may also find it difficult to be open about their LGBTI identity with other people, authorities or services. [17] Unfamiliarity with language commonly used in Scotland to describe LGBTI identity can also prevent people articulating their identity or accessing support services and specialist advice. The strategy will seek to ensure that the issues faced by refugees and people claiming asylum on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity are understood, and that they are able to participate in society.


Engagement work undertaken to develop the strategy has highlighted the impact that geographical location can have on integration. The majority of refugees and asylum seekers in Scotland live in Glasgow. Public services across the city have developed specialist approaches through years of experience, and a range of community organisations and legal specialists is also based in the city.

Resettlement has brought refugees to communities across Scotland. Providing access to a wide range of services and support across the whole of Scotland can be challenging, particularly in more remote and rural areas. However, living in smaller communities can also be a benefit, with access to more personalised support and services within local communities. The strategy will place an emphasis on ensuring that essential services and support are accessible wherever refugees and asylum seekers live in Scotland.

Measuring Success

It is important that work to implement the New Scots refugee integration strategy brings real change for refugees, asylum seekers and the communities that they live in, and that this change can be demonstrated. Progress will be assessed in relation to the New Scots vision and overarching outcomes and will be reported on annually.

The strategy aspires to use quantitative, as well as qualitative, data to measure improvements. However, there are many gaps in the data available, which makes it difficult to accurately report on improvements specifically for refugees and asylum seekers. Most general data sets do not identify refugees and asylum seekers, often for valid reason, and there is little data for areas such as community cohesion. A New Scots Evidence Group [18] has been established to advise on the best means of accessing or developing data sets to support measurement of the impact of the strategy.


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