Chapter 9 Communities, Culture and Social Connections
A large majority of responses raised points about the New Scot's theme of "Communities, Culture and Social Connections". The topics covered include:
- Awareness of Scotland's public about refugees and asylum seekers
- Social isolation
- Community engagement
- Support and funding for community organisations
- Provision of basic information about living in Scotland upon arrival
- Commitment to integrate by refugees and asylum seekers.
Each of these points will be explored in more detail below.
9.1 Awareness of Scotland's public about refugees and asylum seekers
Many responses highlighted that they would like members of the Scottish public to be more aware of refugees and asylum seekers:
- It was felt that the media often portrays refugees and asylum seekers negatively and that this has a negative impact on how the Scottish public perceives refugees and asylum seekers. In addition to this, it was noted that the Scottish public lacks an understanding of the needs and experiences of refugees and asylum seekers, and does not have a clear understanding of the difference between the two.
- Considering this, responses highlighted that the media should be encouraged to share more positive stories about refugees and asylum seekers in Scotland. In addition, responses suggested the need to help the Scottish public appreciate who refugees and asylum seekers are. It was felt that knowing what refugees and asylum seekers' may have experienced in their home countries could render the public's attitude towards refugees and asylum seekers more positive and prevent racism and discrimination.
- It was suggested that the communities where refugees and asylum seekers are accommodated should be better informed about their arrival (see Chapter 5). Addressing community fears, and preparing them for the arrival of refugees and asylum seekers, was seen as ensuring that refugees and asylum seekers are welcomed positively by the host communities.
- In answer to Question 3 of the engagement ("What can you, your community or your organisation do to contribute to that change?"), responses considered that spreading awareness about the issues affecting refugees and asylum seekers was a way of contributing to the change they want to see.
9.2 Social isolation
Many responses noted that social isolation is a key issue for refugees and asylum seekers. This was seen as resulting from:
- Refugees and asylum seekers being housed far away from the city centre (already discussed in Chapter 5) or in rural areas (discussed further in Chapter 11).
- Refugees and asylum seekers often being separated from their families and peers.
- Asylum seekers restricted from working (already discussed in Chapter 3) and therefore being prevented from meeting people through work.
- The lack of engagement with local communities (see 9.3 below).
9.3 Community engagement
The majority of responses emphasised the importance of community engagement for refugees' and asylum seekers' integration.
- It was highlighted that refugees and asylum seekers would like to have more opportunities to meet Scottish people in their local communities. This was a point also raised by two groups of young people at different engagement events.
- A wide variety of different community engagement events were proposed that would give refugees and asylum seekers the opportunity to meet and develop relationships with local Scottish people and, as such, enhance their language skills and the process of integration:
- Befriending and mentoring schemes
- Events held by different community groups, such as shared meals or dances, where members from different communities could come together
- Knowledge and skills exchange events such as international language cafes or cultural exchange events.
- Such events were also seen as providing members of the Scottish public with the opportunity to be, as one response put it, "active partners in the integration process".
- The importance of arts, sports and other recreational activities as an important part of integration was emphasised. It was suggested that refugees and asylum seekers should be made aware of such opportunities in their local areas and get discounted or free entry into sports clubs, or free gym passes or cinema tickets. One response suggested the creation of an "integration football league". The importance of being able to engage in sports was raised by two groups of young people at different engagement events.
- In answer to Question 3 of the engagement ("What can you, your community or your organisation do to contribute to that change?"), many responses highlighted that the different types of community engagement are a way of contributing to the change they want to see. For members of the host community and refugees and asylum seekers to personally interact was seen as contributing to change on the ground.
9.4 Support and funding for community organisations
Many responses felt that there should be more support for community organisations that work with refugees and asylum seekers at the grassroots level, including:
- Organisational support for community organisations
- Funding to be provided on a longer-term basis
- Skills and training for frontline staff working with refugees and asylum seekers
- Support for refugees and asylum seekers to establish their own community groups.
9.5 Provision of basic information upon arrival about living in Scotland
The majority of responses suggested that, upon arrival in Scotland, refugees and asylum seekers should be provided with basic information about living in Scotland, including:
- Information about their local area, including available services and support structures, bus routes, as well as community events and amenities such as libraries, museums or parks.
- Refugees and asylum seekers want to know more about Scottish history, culture and customs. This could include organised visits to places that are significant to Scottish culture and history. Becoming aware of Scottish customs would help refugees and asylum to understand what one response called the "unwritten, unspoken 'rules' and expectation" of everyday life in Scotland.
- Information that would help refugees and asylum seekers to navigate the interaction with different services in Scotland, including information on:
- Their rights and entitlement in relation to health, education, housing, and employment.
- The role of different statutory services and how and where to access them.
- Basic laws and regulations, for example, the legal age for a child to stay alone at home.
- It was emphasised that refugees and asylum seekers would benefit from a "one-stop shop" centre (a central place of support in their local community) or a handbook where they could be provided with the information outlined above.
9.6 Commitment to integrate by refugees and asylum seekers
In answer to Question 3 of the engagement ("What can you, your community or your organisation do to contribute to that change?"), many responses emphasised refugees' and asylum seekers' commitment to integrate into Scottish society. This included:
- Taking part in community events
- Helping their children to integrate
- Actively learning English
- Engage in volunteering and other employability activities
- To be an active citizen.
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