Making the Government get refugees into work

Personnel Today’s ongoing campaign to highlight the problems that refugees
face in joining the UK’s workforce has received wholehearted support from
leading organisations. Ben Willmott reports

The Government needs to introduce effective measures that allow refugees to
enter the jobs market to help tackle the skills shortages that are crippling
many sectors of economy, claim the employers bodies, recruitment industry and
MPs that support Personnel Today’s Refugees in Employment campaign.

The campaign has attracted high-level support, and urges the Government to
introduce a standard permission-to-work document for refugees and asylum-
seekers and to make a commitment to cut red tape for employers who want to take
them on.

It also calls for the development of a strategy to produce a skills database
of all immigrants in the UK and concrete plans to co-ordinate the employment of
refugees and asylum-seekers.

The Government has made a manifesto commitment to deal with asylum,
including a pledge to introduce the first strategy for the integration of
refugees into British society.

Events such as the stabbing of two refugees on Glasgow’s Sighthill estate in
August have highlighted the importance of speeding up this process.

John Stevens, CIPD , believes the campaign’s aims are practical and the
Government needs to take prompt action.

He said, "The CIPD endorses the aim of the campaign to support
employers who wish to employ asylum-seekers or refugees who are entitled to
work in the UK but are experiencing difficulty in doing so.

"The institute and its vice-president of equal opportunities Steve
Barnett, HR director for the Immigration, Nationality and Asylum Service at the
Home Office, take the view that the proposals are sensible and that the practical
implications of the objectives set out in Personnel Today’s letter to
immigration minister Lord Rooker (10 July) should be carefully and quickly
considered by the Government."

The Recruitment and Employment Confederation also backs Refugees in Employment,
stressing the problems its members suffer as a result of skills shortages.

Marcia Roberts, director of external relations for the REC, said, "The
REC is broadly supportive of the Refugees in Employment campaign and the four
objectives that you have outlined.

"The REC operates in virtually all aspects of the employment market and
its members are uniquely placed to help refugees find work. We would be willing
to work with the Employment Service and the Home Office to assist in any such

"Our members are reporting skills shortages in almost every part of the
labour market and with unemployment at a record low, recruiters are having to
seek far and wide to fill vacancies."

Alec Reed, founder and chairman of Reed Executive, believes there is a need
for the Government to invest energy and resources into providing more effective
training for refugees, particularly those who speak English.

He said, "I fully support the Refugees in Employment campaign. I
believe that we should make more effective use of the skills and experience
that many refugees bring with them to this country.

"We have supported the Employability Forum, which involves the Refugee
Council and other voluntary organisations working with refugees as well as the
Home Office and other Government departments."

The Industrial Society welcomes the campaign and emphasis the importance of
simplifying existing bureaucracy to make it easier for refugees to enter

Gill Sargent, policy specialist for the Industrial Society, said,
"Documentation is very confusing for employers at the moment. Refugees
hand employers documents which are unclear. It is unclear as to why refugees
have the documents they have."

Employers will benefit from the recruitment of refugees, Susan Anderson, the
CBI’s director of HR policy, said.

She said, "The CBI recognises that the employment of refugees is an
important issue and one that is part of a wider debate. We have skills
shortages in some sectors and many of those currently unable to work could help
fill them."

She told Personnel Today the CBI’s policy on the issue was currently under
review as part of the debate stimulated by the EU directives governing asylum,
immigration and Third World-country nationals.

Anderson added, "We are only just beginning the consultation process
with our members on the implications of the EU’s` proposals for UK business,
but will sound out members’ views on this issue.

The campaign aims to:

– Introduce a standard permission-to-work document for refugees and

– Make a commitment to cut red tape for employers who want to employ
refugees and asylum-seekers

– Develop a strategy for a skills database of all immigrants to the UK

– Produce concrete plans to coordinate the employment of refugees and

Views from the House

Labour MP Neil Gerrard, chairman of the All-Party Parliamentary
Group on Refugees, said, "I very much welcome the campaign. All the
evidence points to the fact that many asylum-seekers and refugees are people
with the potential to contribute to the UK economy.

"There is a commitment from the Government to the integration of
recognised refugees, but I believe that as yet not a great deal is happening to
put specific plans into practice. Where schemes have been set up, such as the
one in my own local health authority to recruit and where necessary provide
appropriate training to refugee doctors, they have been very successful. I
believe that action such as you propose to develop skills databases and
employment schemes would be very useful.

"The issuing of documentation by the Home Office is far from
satisfactory. It is not uncommon for people who have been recognised as
refugees to have difficulty in getting papers from the Home Office."

Conservative MP Peter Bottomley, a member of the All-Party
Parliamentary Group on Refugees, said, "The campaign is important. Employers
want to be able to do good. The practical points should each receive a positive
response by the Government.

"Many members of Margaret Thatcher’s cabinets had parents or
grandparents who came to the UK as refugees and their children made important
contributions to national life. Others should be able to do the same."

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