European learning - Refugee Council
December 11, 2009

European learning

Between 15 and 22 November 2009, as part of the Training on Needs and Integration of Refugees in Europe project, visitors from Turkey and Spain came to see The Discovery of the Talents, a Refugee Community Organisation (RCO) in Birmingham.

The Turkish delegation was made up of staff from an adult education college in Istanbul (Sogat Halkegitim Merkesi Mordulugu). The Spanish delegation was represented by teachers and counsellors from a prison in Galicia (Centro Publico EPA Monterroso).

The Discovery of the Talents is a Refugee Community Organisation (RCO) working with young refugees and asylum seekers. Recreational activities are organised so that individuals can feel part of a social group, gain confidence and develop their individual capabilities so that they can fulfil their potential.

Based in Ladywood, Birmingham the organisations acts as a resource centre for children and young people aged 10 – 24years as well as older adults living in Birmingham and Sandwell. The office is open Monday to Friday to help and signpost clients on a variety of issues that affect refugees – such as housing, immigration, welfare and debt management. Support is also given to those seeking employment and they are planning to provide ESOL and IT classes in partnership with local colleges.

The Training on Needs and Integration of Refugees in Europe project aims to promote education and development for adults from a refugee background. It is part of the Grundtvig programme, which is itself part of the European Commission’s Lifelong Learning Programme.

Over the next two years, the three participating organisations will share their knowledge of each country’s education systems and learn how these systems affect refugees’ integration needs.

The project also facilitates sharing knowledge about the problems refugees face in each country. Delegates talked about their experiences of contact with people claiming asylum in Spain, Turkey and the UK and how these experiences differ. It is hoped that a better understanding of the needs of refugees and asylum seekers will be passed on to other professionals and volunteers working with refugees and asylum seekers in Spain, Turkey and the UK.

Benefits from the visits were immediately apparent. “We were inspired that a Spanish prison worked in partnership with a college of further education,” explains Justin Bankwa, chair of The Discovery of the Talents, “so now we are approaching colleges for assistance in order to develop refugees’ English language skills to aid their integration into the UK.”

At the end of this programme (July 2011) each partner organisation will hold an exhibition in their respective country which will be open to the public. This exhibition will demonstrate the work of each organisation and the invaluable contribution of individual refugees and how they have been able to learn and progress on this European project.