Persistent barriers to work are creating brain waste, serving as a loss for employers, society and refugees themselves. More must be done to help refugees into work. That was the verdict of the recent UNHCR study into the UK’s efforts to integrate Syrian refugees.

Employment is the most significant factor favouring long-term integration of refugees and critical for the journey towards belonging, and yet significant barriers remain. A lack of clarity over working rights and a lack of recognition of refugees’ qualifications can deter employers from hiring refugees. As well as this, many refugees have fled for their life, and are likely to be traumatised from what they have seen and been through. They may not speak English and usually have to navigate an entirely different culture and labour market from their homeland, often facing discrimination along the way.

RISE (Refugees into Sustainable Employment) sources some great jobs from innovative initiatives such as the Breaking Barriers programme but as we continue to talk to these refugees about their circumstances, it strikes us that the challenge is much more than just finding jobs; it is also about providing language support, building confidence, sourcing affordable childcare and dealing with mental health issues associated with trauma. RISE offers support for all these issues but more often than not, the programme also has to overcome issues of homelessness and destitution before any refugee can even consider discussing employment and training. In short, what is required is a holistic package of support to meet refugees’ needs, of which employment support is just one element.

MigrationWork Director, Rachel Marangozov, argues that refugee employment is about more than just jobs; it’s an opportunity to rebuild a lives.

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