Give refugees free English classes, says IPPR

Refugees should be given free English language classes to support their integration into the UK, the Institute for Public Policy Research, a leading think tank, has proposed.

Research carried out by the IPPR found that refugees experienced a “discongruity of belonging” where Britishness was not cultivated through local integration but experienced on a national level through freedom and peace.

To address this issue, it called for the government to provide English language courses for all newly arrived refugees and to set up flexible funding for English language (EAL) provision in schools.

It also urged the government to review its qualification system so that foreign qualifications and skills could be easily transferred to the UK.

To support a sense of belonging, the IPPR recommended that the Home Office reviews its five-year time limit on refugee status and extend it to allow permanent residency.

The research found that nine out of 10 refugees considered themselves British or of dual-identity; four out of five said they had made friends outside of their country of origin, and nine out of 10 of those who had the right, voted.  However, two thirds of respondents had experienced racism.

It also noted that a high percentage of refugees interviewed took part in volunteering, which further supported their sense of belonging.

The report, From Refugee to Citizen: Standing on my own two feet, was commissioned by Refugee Support, a provider of housing and support for refugees and asylum seekers, to look at the life experiences of 30 refugees over the last 50 years.

Barbara Roche, chair of the Metropolitan Support Trust, which oversees Refugee Support, said: “We know that those we help want to integrate into Britain, they want to be accepted and we aim to help them through this process but the system doesn’t always help us.”

Lord Goldsmith, who is reviewing Citizenship for prime minister Gordon Brown, said: “I welcome the publication of this research which gives an interesting insight into the experiences of refugees in the UK. The research shows that many refugees are active citizens and have a strong sense of their new British identity. The review of citizenship will look at ways to deepen that sense of belonging among new citizens as well as those who were born here.”

More information

Metropolitan Support Trust (Refugee Support)

Institute for Public Policy Research

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