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Posted on 17 June 2024

Refugee Week 2024: Harmony in Diversity

Due to ongoing conflict around the world, many refugees – including women and children – flee their homes and find themselves in towns like ours.

Since it’s Refugee Week, we’re shining a spotlight on the resettlement services offered by Gateway – and showing everyone how helping refugees can help us all achieve ‘Harmony in Diversity’ and improve our communities for all.

What do Gateway do?

Gateway are a homelessness prevention charity with roots throughout the Lancashire. We offer homelessness and resettlement services that help many people, including refugees, find long-term, sustainable housing. We want to ensure refugees settle in, feel valued, able to be themselves and lead happy and productive lives

How Gateway services help refugees

Gateway help refugee families as they find a home. Our Resettlement Team’s aim is to help refugees integrate into the UK and live sustainable, productive and healthy lives.

Refugees are referred to Gateway by local authorities, providing support for any refugees eligible under the UK Home Office resettlement schemes. These schemes include: The Afghan Relocations and Assistance Policy (ARAP), UK Resettlement Scheme (UKRS) and Homes for Ukraine (HFU).

Support provided to help refugees adjust to life in the UK includes language courses (if that is a barrier), benefits and finance, health and wellbeing, housing, education and training, social and leisure, employment and volunteering, and legal advice.

Gateway’s caseworkers collaboratively work with UNHCR, Home Office, Lancashire County Council, district leads, DWP, specialist providers, health, education, training providers and other support groups/services from the voluntary and faith sector, supporting refugee families on their journey to full integration and economic self-sufficiency.

The focus is building on existing skills and qualifications, accessing training, volunteering, work placements and eventually paid employment.

The benefits of housing refugees within the community

Integrating refugees into local communities promotes social cohesion by breaking down barriers between groups and fostering mutual understanding and respect. Refugees who have had adequate support in their integration process will have a greater sense of motivation to become part of their new communities – often becoming sustainable tenants.

Promoting cultural diversity

Promoting diversity through the welcoming and integration of refugees into our communities can enrich our cultural landscape – this includes everything from food to ethics. Not only does welcoming refugees at home promote cultural diversity, but it also fosters social harmony.

Jason Tomy, Resettlement Team Co-ordinator at Gateway, said: “Moreover, embracing refugees promotes cross-cultural understanding and empathy. As we interact with individuals from diverse backgrounds, we challenge stereotypes and break down barriers, fostering greater social cohesion and harmony.” He added.

Giving back to the economy

By welcoming refugees, we enrich our cultural tapestry, embracing different languages, traditions, and perspectives. This diversity not only enhances our social composition but also contributes to economic growth and innovation.

As they find their footing, refugees contribute significant tax revenue, stimulate the economy, raise productivity, improve local worker wages, boost innovation, and often generate international trade because of their connections to various countries. Refugees often establish businesses, create jobs, and contribute to the tax base, reviving neighbourhoods and promoting economic development.

Jason from Gateway continued: “Successful refugee integration enhances social cohesion and reduces social tensions, creating a more conducive environment for business and investment. Companies thrive in environments where diversity is celebrated, as it fosters creativity and cultural understanding, leading to increased competitiveness in the global marketplace”.

Replacing an ageing population

In high-income countries such as the UK, the portion of the population over 65 is currently growing at one of the fastest rates in history. With a large percentage of a country’s population ageing, the demand for social services increases while leaving gaps in the workforce. This creates an economic problem, but countries can mitigate this problem by accepting refugees.

Jason added: “Integrating refugees brings a wealth of skills and talents that can benefit various sectors of our society. Refugees often possess unique experiences and expertise that can fill gaps in the labour market, driving productivity and competitiveness.”

Ammar’s story

Ammar Hussein, originally from Syria, sought asylum in the UK after escaping the war.

When he arrived in Burnley, he was eager to get back into work. Ammar didn’t want to “stay on benefits or stay at home all the time”, which led him to volunteer with Calico for over five months before securing himself full-time employment with the Group.

After two-years working with Calico, Ammar used his experience to go self-employed. He now enjoys his busy work schedule and thanks us for the experiences learned.

Ammar told us: “Before the war, my life was nice. I had a family, house, job. After the war, I basically lost everything. My mum, my house, all the services – life there is not safe. When I arrived, Calico supported me with everything. School for my kids, registering with the GP, getting in touch with the job centre.”

What is a refugee?

Today, the UK is home to approximately 1% of the 27.1 million refugees who were forcibly displaced across the world. Ukraine, Syria and Afghanistan remain the main places where people are fleeing; as war, violence, poverty and famine force them to leave their lives behind.

Refugees have a right under UK and international law to bring their immediate family members to join them.

A refugee:

  • has proven that they’d be at risk if returned to their home country
  • has had their claim for asylum accepted by the government
  • has permission to stay in the UK either long term or indefinitely

What is the difference between an asylum seeker and a refugee?

An asylum seeker is a person who has left their country and is seeking protection from persecution and serious human rights violations in another country. They haven’t yet been legally recognised as a refugee and are waiting to receive a decision on their asylum claim.

Always remember, seeking asylum is a human right.

Find out more about Gateway’s resettlement services or get in touch to find out about refugee schemes in your area.

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