Introduction from the New Scots Core Group Chair
Alison Phipps, Chair of the New Scots Core Group
UNESCO Chair: Refugee Integration through Languages and the Arts,
University of Glasgow
In my work, as UNESCO Chair for Refugee Integration through Languages and the Arts at the University of Glasgow, I meet groups of people working to integrate all over the world. Good integration looks similar across the world. It’s not camps; it’s not aid; it’s people living in flourishing communities where everyone can contribute and everyone feels their own social and cultural security is held by frameworks of human rights and by human connections.
In Scotland, the New Scots refugee integration strategy 2018 – 2022 is clear that integration is the work of everyone. In this respect, Scotland’s New Scots strategy is pioneering. There is, at the end of this first year, a good deal to celebrate. The establishment of a group to provide and consider evidence of progress in integration is key. Great strides are being made in new areas, with funding to both Scottish Refugee Council and to the British Red Cross for integration work and family reunion. There is integration activity in local authorities across the country, many of which have been relatively new to this work and have learned greatly from experience in community development.
Importantly, communities of New Scots themselves have led integration support, often translating, accompanying and being alongside new arrivals, and generously sharing their own understandings and journeys into integration themselves. Much of this was celebrated at the Gathering in 2018, and we see new leaders emerging in many contexts alongside a wealth of cultural work. This comes together annually in Refugee Festival Scotland, but is a steady presence throughout the year.
Integration is not easy work in many domains of life, as it involves combatting inequalities and legacies of injustice. This work is particularly important where asylum seekers and refugees are concerned because great harm has been done and protection is needed from persecution. We still have a long way to go, and tough challenges, many of which are out of the decision making remits of devolved powers in Scotland. The UK Government’s policies of a hostile environment have a detrimental effect on integration and in 2018 this was clearly evidenced in the public concern about housing and the threat of evictions.
In building vibrant, inclusive, tolerant communities in Scotland; where all are valued, including those who have come to us seeking protection, there is much to keep us occupied. We need to encourage inclusion in business and enterprise, recognition of qualifications and skills, as well as the sharing of languages and cultures. We must also continue to prioritise the voices of experts by experience in the asylum and refugee system, the deeper listening to stories of integration, and ensuring the wisdom and knowledge of all is included in the planning and work.
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