Asylum seekers must be integrated into the UK the moment they
arrive and not just when they receive refugee status, a conference
on asylum integration and citizenship was told last week.
Speaking at Capita’s Asylum: Moving Towards the Goals of
Integration and Citizenship conference in London, Refugee Council
head of policy Alison Fenney said the government should adopt a
long-term integration process that starts from the time an asylum
seeker arrives in the UK.
She told delegates: “Integration starts from day one. You cannot
treat asylum seekers as outsiders for two years and then expect
them to integrate into society after all they have been
Fenney said that the “fundamental flaw” with the government’s
current policy towards asylum seekers is that it concentrates on
the asylum stage and those applications that are going to fail
instead of the people who need protection.
She said: “It does not give any thought to asylum seekers who will
end up with refugee status.” She also criticised the government’s
generic approach to helping asylum seekers fit into life in the UK
through citizenship and language classes.
“Integration is an individual experience,” Fenney said. “It is
impossible to come up with a tick-box about what will make people
She added that refugee colleagues told her integration starts with
“a feeling of belonging” and said the government would never be
able to legislate for that.
Also addressing the conference, Immigration Advisory Service chief
executive Keith Best said he did not believe refugees need
necessarily become UK citizens. He said: “Are we really saying that
citizenship will lead to better integration? We need to look a bit
less rosy eyed at the realities of the situation.”
Best added that the government’s citizenship classes will only be
successful if they encourage “civic participation and understanding
of rights as well as responsibilities”.