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Government must step up support for refugee integration


3 min read

In the New Year, Rishi Sunak pledged to halt small boats crossing the English Channel. If he is serious about doing this, the answer lies not in more tactical deterrence measures but in a rounded refugee resettlement and integration strategy.

What’s more, this strategy could also contribute to the Prime Minister’s pledge to ease the cost of living crisis by boosting the economy.

New research released today by the International Rescue Committee (IRC) shows that pragmatic, effective and compassionate solutions already exist to deliver on the Prime Minister’s promises – and that they are backed by the British public and businesses. 

The continued focus on deterring refugees and asylum seekers will not work

First, IRC’s new report, From Harm to Home, outlines how the government could scale up safe routes to create alternatives to dangerous and deadly journeys across the Channel. Until safe routes exist for those who need them, people will keep risking their lives. 

Currently, Britain resettles fewer refugees through UN-brokered schemes than Germany, France or Canada. The IRC recommends that the government commits to resettling just 10,000 extra refugees a year under the new United Kingdom Resettlement Scheme. This is a tiny portion of the 100 million people who have now been forced to flee their homes around the world, and just an extra 15 people per parliamentary constituency, but it would nevertheless be a greater contribution and one that could bring great benefit to Britain’s communities and Britain’s economy.  

Second, the IRC calls on the government to bring forward a new National Integration Strategy, with a suite of practical measures to help refugees integrate. These measures should focus on better English language provision and employment support, which doesn’t just help refugees unlock their own potential, but also strengthens thriving, cohesive communities in the UK.  

This may be why two-thirds of the British public support it. New YouGov polling – carried out for IRC in January – shows 61 per cent of the public are in favour of the government increasing employment support for refugees and 64 per cent back more English language support.  

British businesses are on board too. As the Prime Minister wrote in the New Year, “businesses are crying out for workers”. Yet, the vast majority of asylum seekers are denied the right to work. More new polling from YouGov, carried out exclusively for IRC, shows 68 per cent of business decision makers support asylum seekers having the right to work six months after their claims have been completed. Crucially, 64 per cent think this would have a positive impact on the economy as a whole. 

Third, to ensure that refugee protection is represented, coordinated and prioritised across government, and that there is accountability for the delivery of the initiatives proposed, Rishi Sunak should reinstate the post of minister for refugees at Cabinet level.  

According to reports, new borders legislation set to come before Parliament could further undermine the right to claim asylum – long-established under international law. It is time for the government to realise that the continued focus on deterring refugees and asylum seekers will not work. Practical, doable alternative approaches exist. We urge the government to take them seriously.  


Laura Kyrke-Smith, is executive director at International Rescue Committee UK.

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Read the most recent article written by Laura Kyrke-Smith - Taking aim at the Refugee Convention will not stop small boats


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