New research published today by the Refugee Council highlights the key role that refugee-led community organisations (RCOs) and networks play in supporting refugees to integrate, and increasing refugee inclusion and participation in the UK.
The research report, ‘A bridge to life in the UK: Refugee-led community organisations and their role in integration’, highlights the depth and breadth of services that RCOs provide to support refugees to rebuild their lives, including the provision of key information and advice, English language classes, support to find employment and activities to improve health and well-being.
The research found that RCOs are particularly effective in supporting their service users because of three key assets: reach, insight and solutions. They have the ability to reach refugee communities as they have contacts, share languages and cultural affinity, and they are trusted. Their insight often comes from the personal experiences of the refugees running the services, and this improves their ability to find solutions to the barriers and challenges facing refugees.
Despite being remarkably effective agents for social integration, RCOs are chronically underused, unrecognised and under-resourced. The research also revealed the challenges faced by RCOs, including difficulties in fundraising and being at a disadvantage when it comes to commissioning, participating in local planning or influencing policy and decision making. The report recommends ways in which RCOs can be supported to overcome these challenges with the aim of ensuring RCOs that can continue to support their communities and enabling them to contribute to important discussions on integration based of their experience of service delivery.
Maurice Wren, Chief Executive of the Refugee Council said: “At a time when refugee integration is finally back on the Government’s agenda, it’s a deep concern that the voices of refugees – the experts by experience – are largely and noticeably absent from the debate especially when they have so much of value to offer.
“Refugee-led community organisations (RCOs) and their networks have a long and impressive track record of supporting the inclusion and participation of their members and are active in almost every locality across the UK where refugees have settled. Despite this RCOs are routinely overlooked, taken for granted and excluded from integration policy discussions, when they obviously need to be are part of the solution. This must change and we urge policy and decision makers to take heed of the recommendations based on this research.”
Photo credit: CARAS.org.uk