Policy Scotland’s last lunchtime seminar before the summer break focused on research into the aspirations of young Syrian refugees.
Dr Lesley Doyle, Senior Lecturer (Centre for Research and Development in Adult and Lifelong Learning) and Dr Kristinn Hermannsson, Lecturer in Educational Economics (Robert Owen Centre), School of Education, University of Glasgow gave a presentation about the data they have gathered and analysed as part of the research project Building Futures: Aspirations of Syrian Youth Refugees and Host Population Responses in Lebanon, Greece and the UK.
The ongoing conflict in Syria has resulted in a large wave of refugees, with the UN Refugee Agency estimating that nearly six million people have left the country since 2011. From the point of view of policymakers this raises the question of who these people are, what they want to do and how well equipped they are to realise their aspirations?
Lesley and Kristinn presented results from a survey, funded by the AHRC-ESRC-GCRF, of young refugees and asylum seekers in the UK, Greece and Lebanon. The data revealed differences in the educational levels of refuges and their types of previous occupation – whether employment, studying or home-making – in each country. The researchers also asked the refugees what they wanted to do in their new countries; this revealed that for some people their aspirations had changed from their previous occupations so there are mismatches between the refugees’ aspirations and their qualifications and skills. Lesley and Kristinn hope to do more research to investigate why aspirations have changed.
This Policy Scotland blog post – The Skills, Experiences and Aspirations of Young Syrian Refugees – introduces the first policy report from the project. The report makes policy recommendations which could allow refugees to have sufficient opportunity to become productive members of society, wherever that happens to be.
The key policy recommendations are:
A. Policymakers and influencers should communicate much clearer to the general public both why refugees flee their country, as well as what contributions they are able and eager to make once they reach the United Kingdom.
B. The UK government should invest in the education and training of young refugees, prioritising access to entry-level ESOL courses. Assistance in reconstructing people’s educational records, or in providing recognition of previous qualifications/accreditation, would help remove a key factor explaining the significant under-utilisation of high skills in the refugee workforce.
C. There is a need for authorities at all levels to concentrate time and resources to encourage, facilitate and coordinate the provision of services designed to improve refugees’ understanding of how the labour market and job application process work in the UK. The private sector should engage with this population as a potential workforce, recognising and utilising their skills.
D. The existing two-tier refugee support system, based on the mode of entry to the UK, produces inequalities in the experiences of and support for young Syrians. All refugees should have the same social provisions to support their integration, based on the refugee resettlement model.
E. If the aim of refugee policy is to facilitate settlement, rather than forced self-reliance, then the support offered to refugees in Scotland should be emulated across the UK, to confront the inequalities of the current system. Alternatively, providing the Scottish Parliament with greater jurisdiction concerning the welfare and settlement of those forcibly displaced would bring clear benefits for those settled in Scotland.
Find out more about the research project on the Refugee Politics website.