Headlines: July 21st, 2004

Refugees are to be encouraged to play a greater role in their new communities. They are also being urged to contribute to a new national integration strategy produced by the Home Office and now out for consultation. “Integration Matters” sets out the Government’s long term plans to help recognised refugees integrate into society. It is open for consultation for three months.The plans are to be backed by 5.5 million pounds of new funding for refugee support projects and networks. An additional 1.5 million will also be available to give asylum seekers the opportunity to give something back to their host communities while they are waiting for a decision on their status.

The money will go to a number of schemes including a construction project in Glasgow which helps refugees to learn a trade and build their own homes in previously run down areas. Other projects to benefit include one in London helping refugee women develop vocational skills in childcare to break the barriers to employment and a scheme in North West England that matches refugees’ skills with local volunteering opportunities.

The strategy is designed to give refugees roots in their new communities. It contains specific proposals to offer them an intensive 28 day, one-to-one programme with a dedicated caseworker in the critical first few weeks to help them to find work, update their skills, arrange housing and encourage their civic engagement and involvement in voluntary work. It is also designed to give refugees roots in local communities. New laws will mean refugees supported by the National Asylum Support Service will access social housing locally, if needed, rather than having to move to another part of the country to find a home. There will also be a new loan system and increased funding to foster refugee involvement in communities though local projects.