Refugee integration strategy unveiled

Equalities Secretary Angela Constance.
Equalities Secretary Angela Constance.

A new strategy on supporting refugees in Scotland’s communities will be published this year, Equalities Secretary Angela Constance has confirmed.

The landmark New Scots refugee integration strategy, which ran from 2014-17, has been hailed as a trailblazing approach to supporting refugees and asylum seekers to settle in Scotland.

The distinct approach of New Scots aims to enable refugees to settle and rebuild their lives from the day they arrive, to become active members of our communities and realise their full potential.

A report published today outlines the progress the New Scots strategy has made in the past three years, and acknowledges the areas the new strategy will build on. The strategy will be developed by the Scottish Government, COSLA and the Scottish Refugee Council.

Equalities Secretary Angela Constance said: “In the past three years many organisations have worked together under the New Scots strategy to ensure refugees and asylum seekers receive the right support and services they need to help rebuild their lives in Scotland.

“Everyone involved should be rightly proud of what has been achieved. The strong partnership working has provided a warm, supportive welcome for people arriving in Scotland, many of whom have endured great trauma. Scotland has a long history of welcoming refugees and asylum seekers and we want this to continue. New Scots was also vital to ensuring we were able to step up to lead the way in receiving refugees under the Syrian Resettlement Programme.

“New Scots has been recognised as being innovative and progressive. But there is still work to be done. We know integration is a long-term process, and there continues to be some challenges facing those who want to seek refuge in Scotland. As we develop a new strategy this year we will strive to ensure these challenges are overcome.”

Mhoraig Green, Policy Manager for COSLA, said: “Councils across the country have taken a leading role in supporting refugees to build a new life in Scotland since the expansion of the Syrian Resettlement Scheme in 2015. The New Scots Framework has provided an invaluable tool for local authorities supporting refugees for the first time. The final report highlights an array of partnership activities that are helping to improve the lives of Scotland’s refugees, and we are delighted to see some of the excellent work led by local authorities featured.”

Wafa Shaheen, Head of Integration at Scottish Refugee Council, said: “The people we work with are incredibly strong and have huge amounts of determination. They want to start living not simply surviving and that’s what we help them to do.

With our partners in New Scots we are working on an ambitious, long-term solution to support refugee integration in Scotland and help people contribute to society and reach their full potential.”

Dr Alison Strang, from the Institute for Global Health and Development at Queen Margaret University and Chair of the New Scots Core Implementation Group, said: “The New Scots strategy has brought policy makers, services providers and refugees together around a shared vision for a Scotland where refugees are able to build a new life from the day they arrive in Scotland. Partners in the strategy are committed to integration as a two-way process through which strong social relationships are built in our diverse Scottish communities.

“Looking back over New Scots it is striking to see how relationships between partners have been forged and strengthened through the consultation and implementation process. The existence of this established network, with a shared approach to welcoming refugees, provided a sound basis for a quick and effective response to the arrival of Syrian refugees over the past 18 months.

“There is much to celebrate as we reflect on the work of New Scots. Now is the time to step up a gear as we tackle the ongoing challenges. By extending the reach of the strategy we can ensure that refugees across Scotland can realise their full potential and become active members of our communities.”