Rethinking Refugee Conference Outcome Report
Posted on 5th December 2016 at 11:21
Conference Outcome Report from the Bristol Rethinking Refugee Conference held by Ashley Community Housing on 10th October 2016
Refugees are an asset not a liability
We face the most serious refugee crisis in the last twenty years, with more people displaced since WW2. Too often we see the refugee issue as a burden to society, and at best humanitarian and charity issue.
Key outcomes of the discussions at the Rethinking Refugee Conference:
Refugees are an asset not a liability
We face the most serious refugee crisis in the last twenty years, with more people displaced since WW2. Too often we see the refugee issue as a burden to society, and at best humanitarian and charity issue. A humanitarian response designed for the short-term too often ends up administering long-term misery. Rather than transitioning from emergency relief to long-term reintegration, refugee populations too often get trapped within the system. This benefits nobody. The existing paradigm fails to adequately recognise that refugees have talents, skills, and aspirations. A rethink is urgently needed.
“In Bristol we must see refugees as an asset, not as a problem. We need to make the best use of their skills and expertise.
This is part of my vision of a Bristol that works for all its residents, not just the few.”
Message from Marvin Rees, Mayor of Bristol
Housing problems faced by refugees reflect the wider housing crisis in Bristol where we need to build more properties and release investment as well as do more to protect private sector tenants. We need to project a positive image of the role of refugees and here the media has an important role and we need to ensure positive stories are presented.
ACH new perspective of refugee resettlement and integration
Our aim is to explore some new perspectives concerning integration and resettlement refugees from our grassroots and community based approach and experience. Whilst human rights and safety are, of course, paramount, we must give greater priority to employment and economic development opportunities if we are to offer a genuine integration and better life to refugees and forced migrants coming to the UK. Early labour market integration for refugees is the best method for refugee integration, and this can be achieved through culturally sensitive support, training and sector focused employment skills.
Rethinking refugees as entrepreneurs
Refugees often have high entrepreneurship skills and run successful businesses in their home countries. We need to encourage them to start businesses and remove any barriers to this. ACH is carrying out research with Birmingham University studying what the drivers and barriers to migrant and refugee businesses are. We will be blogging about this in 2017.
When working with refugees the narrative can be disheartening, with the media controlling and framing a very negative debate. Tight budgets and funding shortfalls pitch refugee support organisations against each other with the result that refugees are rarely considered other than to be disadvantaged and economically burdensome. Meanwhile institutional timidity sees Local Authorities and other agencies freeze through a fear of moving out of their cultural comfort zones, compounded by a lack of concrete data or well-directed policy debate.
We can change policy by collaborating to aggregate the collective impact of all those working with refugees in the city, agreeing a joint approach to economic integration, driving an agenda to bend available funding to achieve positive change for refugees, and using our access to news channels to show the positive impacts on the local economy. Without a collective approach the opportunities for social change will continue to be missed and the mainstream will continue to fail Bristol’s refugee community
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