Between May and November 2017, the Scottish Government ran an engagement process to inform Scotland's second New Scots Refugee Integration Strategy (New Scots 2). Its aim was to gather views from a wide range of stakeholders, including refugees and asylum seekers.
The Scottish Government developed, in partnership with COSLA and the Scottish Refugee Council, an engagement facilitation guide, enabling community groups and organisations to arrange their own engagement events. The engagement asked three broad and open-ended questions about what issues regarding refugee integration in Scotland are important to respondents now, what changes they want to see by 2020, and what they, their community or organisation can contribute to that change.
The aim of this report is to present an analysis of the whole range of views expressed by the 94 submitted responses to the engagement. While the questions did not ask specifically about the seven themes of the New Scots Strategy, the issues raised by the responses were well captured by the seven New Scots themes: each New Scots theme was commented upon by at least every second response, and four out of seven New Scots themes were commented upon by a large majority of responses.
The key messages from the responses are detailed below.
Needs of asylum seekers
Most responses made comments in relation to the needs of asylum seekers, ranging from concerns about the length of the asylum process, the current process for dispersal and the restrictions for asylym seekers to work. Most of these issues raised, however, concern matters reserved to the UK Government.
Employability and Welfare Rights
Many responses highlighted the perceived barriers to employment that refugees face, ranging from their low English language skills to a lack of recognition of their prior qualifications. This was important to responses as they highlighted refugees and asylum seekers' desire to work.
The majority of responses emphasised the fact that housing is an important topic for refugees and asylum seekers, particularly the quality and location of housing/accomodation.
The majority of responses made comments about the educational offers for refugees and asylum seekers and emphasised the importance of quick access to nursery provision as well as school, college and higher education.
A large majority of responses highlighted the importance of "language" in the integration process of refugees and asylum seekers, ranging from having quick access to ESOL classes, to interpreters and provision of information in their first language.
Health and Wellbeing
A large majority of responses raised points in relation to the health needs of refugees and asylum seekers (particularly concerns around mental health and trauma) and the importance for them to have a quick access to health services.
Communities, Culture and Social Connections
Considering the social isolation that some refugees and asylum seekers experience, a large majority of responses emphasised the importance for refugees and asylum seekers to integrate into their local communities, understand Scottish culture and build social connections.
Poverty and Destitution
In addition to points raised in relation to any of the seven New Scots themes, many responses drew attention to the poverty and destitution that refugees and asylum seekers, particularly refused asylum seekers, can experience.
A number of other issues were raised which were either beyond the scope of the New Scots strategy or did not directly relate to a single New Scots theme - these issues included:
- The importance of family reunion for refugees and asylum seekers
- The level of racism and discrimination experienced by refugees and asylum seekers
- The suggestion that refugees and asylum seekers should be provided with discounted or free travel passes
- The perception of a "two-tier" system, i.e. the perceived difference in service provision for refugees who have come to Scotland through the Syrian Resettlement Programme and those who came via a different route and are going through the asylum system
- The importance of further service development for refugees and asylum seekers, ranging from staff training to service integration
- The way in which particular population groups, ranging from female asylum seekers to LGBTI asylum seekers, are affected by particular sets of issues.
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