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Communities are the drivers for inclusive and integrated societies. Examples across the world have demonstrated that more inclusive communities have significant benefits, economically, socially and culturally.

Bristol is a global city with 16% of the population born outside the UK. Over 91 languages are spoken on our Bristol streets. It's a great city, but can also be a fractured city with different communities living parallel lives. Register here and join us for a facilitated discussion about inclusion and integration where migrants, refugees and Bristol's host communities share their experience and voice what it means to them and their community.
London — A Sudanese, a Sri Lankan and a Venezuelan sit around a table in a light and airy loft in a trendy section of London. This may sound like an opening of a bad joke, but it is actually an inspiring story of refugees helping refugees.

The three are computer programmers, each with his own story about where he came from and how he managed to get to where he is now. What they share is an almost tangible drive to help other refugees still looking to make their place.

Germán is one of the founders of Inclusive Labs, a coding organization employing refugees. He is spearheading the development of a digital platform identifying the skillsets of Syrian refugees just before they resettle in four European countries. As one component of the LINK IT project run by the International Organization for Migration (IOM), this online platform produces physical skills profiles, similar to a basic CV, that the refugees can use to assist them in finding a job.

“There are many social projects out there creating impact, which is great. But many of these in the tech industry are under-represented by the very group they are meaning to help,” says 38-year-old Germán, from Venezuela.

By employing migrant and refugee programmers, this is exactly what the three programmers and IOM’s LINK IT project has overcome. “When I left Venezuela, it was relatively stable. I wanted to study in Europe, so I went to school in Germany and then in the UK. Now the situation has dramatically changed in my home country,” Germán continued.

Thirty-seven-year-old Raj originally came to the UK for a Master’s degree in Computer Mathematics and stayed for his Doctorate in Mathematics after which he returned to Sri Lanka to work. But, when tensions rose again, he feared the worst so he returned to the UK and officially began the asylum process.
“Bills piled up as I waited through the asylum process. When I finally received refugee status, I felt relief… until then I couldn’t find work here because I had no UK experience,” remembers Raj.

Eventually, Raj found his niche with Inclusive Lab as he visualizes the data from the LINK IT skills profiling platform to produce research and analysis for the project. This means that national and local governments will be able to better understand the current skillsets refugees offer and what can be done to encourage greater labour market participation, thus boosting economies.

“I am a refugee identifying the skills of other refugees. They have the same need as I once did,” says Raj.

Then there is Ameer, a 26-year-old refugee from Sudan who is also one of the web developers working with Inclusive Labs. “I feel so blessed to have found this community with Inclusive labs. It’s more like a family. It taught me a lot of skills, especially soft skills like talking to people,” says Ameer.

As the three continue to build and maintain the LINK IT platform, it is obvious to see the pride in their work. “The use of modern Java script, the technology, the quality of data we produce and the fact that it is done by refugees, this is really incredible,” says Germán.

“To continue on the path that we are walking. This is my dream. I want to keep expanding the project as a genuine example of inclusivity and diversity,” says Germán, with the other two nodding in agreement.

IOM’s 18-month LINK IT project is piloting a skills profiling tool for Syrian refugees living in Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey who are being resettled to the UK, Germany, Portugal or Romania. The project runs alongside the regular pre-departure orientation.

Co-funded by the EU, the project also provides post-arrival orientation and training activities once refugees have arrived, helps prepare local governments and employers to receive resettled refugees, dispels myths and provides a channel to share best practices in the larger European context.

The LINK IT programme is one part of IOM’s work to encourage greater labour market participation by migrants and refugees living in the United Kingdom. In the UK, IOM has teamed up with UNHCR, Business in the Community (BITC), the UK Home Office and the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) to launch a guide for UK businesses interested in employing refugees.

You can access the Employer Handbook here.
Companies can take simple steps to employ more refugees and enable them to better integrate in the UK and contribute to economy

London – Refugees are underrepresented in the UK workforce and a great opportunity for them to contribute to growth and better integrate in the country is being missed, according to new guidelines released today by the International Organization for Migration (IOM), the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), Business in the Community (BITC) and UK Government.

Tapping Potential: Guidelines to Help UK Businesses Employ Refugees sets out simple steps that companies can take to enable refugees to more seamlessly enter the workforce and build their skills, benefiting companies and the national economy.

“More inclusive communities and workforces frequently report increased socioeconomic benefits,” said Dipti Pardeshi, IOM Chief of Mission in the UK. “It’s not only about refugees learning about life here in Britain. To have inclusive societies and workforces, employers can also make strides to better understand refugees and identify beneficial employment opportunities, both for companies and refugees themselves.”

Refugees want to become self-supporting and contribute to their new communities. They are, however, often hampered by poor understanding of language and business practices, non-recognition of their qualifications, and sometimes the impact of their experiences before reaching safety in the UK. There are measures that can be taken to support refugees into employment. These include: adapting recruitment and interview processes to put refugees at ease; recognizing experience and qualifications from abroad; offering integrated English language workplace training; ‘buddying’ and training in workplace culture; ensuring equal progression opportunities for part-time and flexible workers; and creating apprenticeships, traineeships or voluntary schemes to allow refugees to add skills and qualifications, or adapt their experience to new sectors.

“There is huge capacity for refugees to contribute to the UK economy, either by better leveraging the skills they already have or helping them add new skills,” said Rossella Pagliuchi-Lor, UNHCR’s UK Representative. “There really is untapped potential here that could be a boon for the local economy, and at the same time a powerful vehicle for better integration.”

UNHCR estimates there are 120,000 refugees in the UK. Refugees have the right to work here, and doing so helps them build self-reliance and contribute to the economy. They represent a range of nationalities and backgrounds that could diversify business culture and attract new talent. Yet they are struggling to enter and progress in the labour market. According to a recent study, the UK unemployment rate of people who originally came to the UK as refugees is 18 per cent, three times that of the UK-born population. Meanwhile, UK employers are struggling to fill roles, particularly entry-level jobs. Yet many refugees are also ready to take on skilled roles; almost half held qualifications before coming to the UK, and many have previous experience as professionals.

Immigration Minister Caroline Nokes said: “The UK is committed to supporting refugees as they rebuild their lives here, including with opportunities in the workplace. Employing refugees can bring great benefits to businesses, individuals and communities. These practical guidelines highlight the crucial role for the private sector, in partnership with Government and others, in helping refugees across the country find work.”

Minister of State for Employment Alok Sharma added: “Employers are missing out on a pool of untapped talent by potentially ruling out opening work opportunities to those who have been granted refugee status in the UK. Part of creating an inclusive society is ensuring everyone has equal access to work, which is why the Government is committed to supporting disadvantaged groups into employment. As the UK’s workforce continues to diversify, more businesses are recognizing the value it brings and these guidelines will help fuel our record employment.”

Companies report that employing refugees has a positive impact on their own workforces, including better cultural awareness and diversity, reduction of unconscious bias and the addition of new skills and thinking. This comes as more citizens are looking to businesses to act as forces for positive change in the community.

Nicola Inge, BITC’s Employment Campaign Director, said: “Responsible businesses are already offering refugee-friendly employment through preparing refugees for the workplace, removing barriers in recruitment and providing an inclusive environment to employees. These new guidelines will help even more employers to make practical changes and discover the benefits of employing refugees – whether it’s meeting talent shortages, improving employee engagement or increasing diversity.”

The release provides case-studies from employers that have initiated programmes to clear the path for refugees into employment. Waitrose & Partners, the retailer, is offering work placements to resettled Syrian refugees in partnership with BITC’s Ready for Work programme. It gives participants training to prepare for the workplace, followed by a two-week work placement and post-placement support. Grant Thornton, the professional services firm, is working with the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales to explore how they can support individuals with accountancy qualifications not currently recognized in the UK. The furniture group IKEA has funded 122 refugees to receive employability support from Breaking Barriers; so far 30 refugees have gained employment at stores across London.

John Pettigrew, National Grid CEO, said: “We recognize the added value that refugees bring to our company through their wealth of expertise and skills, which ensure we have the best minds in the world to meet the needs of our customers and bill payers. Integrating more refugees into the UK workforce is not only the right thing to do, it makes business sense. Increasing refugee employment means the UK not only gains the additional economic benefits of their work but improved community cohesion too.”

The partners who drew up the Guidelines are working with the Refugee Employment Network, a recently established umbrella group of organizations supporting refugees into work.

About the Guidelines
The Guidelines were drawn up by IOM, UNHCR, BITC, the Home Office and the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP). They were developed in late 2018 and 2019. As well as offering tips to foster employment and prepare companies to hire refugees, they provide guidance to employers on the rules and regulations covering employing refugees, and their right to work. The release provides links to private partnerships and NGOs working in the area as well as an annex on immigration status and work entitlements. It also references a 10-point Action Plan from UNHCR and the OECD from regional dialogues with employers to inspire policy action and increase coordination among employers, governments, civil society actors and refugees to help society make the most of refugees’ skills and experience. The document will be distributed to employers across the UK and made available on the websites of the organizers.

The Refugee Employment Network was established in 2018 and has a membership of over 80 refugee integration support organizations across the UK. Their membership supports refugees in the UK to be able to access appropriate, fulfilling, paid employment or self-employment. They also work to set best practice guidelines and offer support to organizations to attain these standards. UNHCR is hosting a launch event in Canary Wharf London on May 2, 2019.

Media interested in attending should contact

For more information please contact:
IOM: Abby Dwommoh, Email:, Tel: 020 7811 6060
UNHCR: Matthew Saltmarsh, Email:, Tel: 07880 230 985
BITC: Cathy Beveridge, Email:, Tel: 020 7566 6634

Women across the world face disparities based upon their gender. In the migration context, this is particularly applicable. Despite the fact that women migrate as much as men, oftentimes, their skills contributions and needs are overlooked. Nearly half of the estimated 260 million migrants worldwide are women, who are often at greater risk for exploitation, abuse and violence.

A more gendered approach can better address systemic barriers for migrant women and girls. With this, IOM held a seminar in London entitled “Women and Migration: Implementing international frameworks for empowerment of migrant women and girls” on 19 March 2019 to mark International Women’s Day.

The seminar examined the role and relevance of the Agenda 2030 and the Global Compact for Migration (GCM) to stimulate new thinking and discussion on how to make the implementation of such frameworks more gender-responsive and contribute to gender equality.
Academia, civil society and DFID panellists explored innovative approaches to ensuring implementation of such frameworks adequately addresses the specific challenges faced by migrant women and girls.
Professor Nicola Piper from Queen Mary University in London highlighted: “Although the SDGs and the Global Compact do place women on the agenda, we should not limit our focus to counter trafficking programmes."
Thomas Green, Global Compact for Migration Lead at the UK Department for International Development (DFID) emphasised the role and the potential of the GCM in further advancing gender equality and provided examples of how DIFD projects around the globe support this process.

Civil society was represented by the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants’ (JCWI) Campaign Officer Mary Atkinson and Platform for International Cooperation on Undocumented Migrants (PICUM) Director Michelle LeVoy. Both speakers highlighted the continued challenges facing migrant women, especially undocumented ones. Discussions explored how the implementation of international frameworks must ensure marginalised groups have access to justice. The issue of firewalls also came out strongly as its implementation is essential in protecting migrant women from abuse or discrimination especially when it comes of access to health services.

The seminar concluded by recognizing the significant strides the international community has taken on cooperation on international migration through the adoption of international frameworks such as the GCM and Agenda 2030. However, more can be done to address the implementation to eliminate violence against women and girls, trafficking and exploitation and addressing and reducing vulnerabilities in migration. Facilitating fair and ethical recruitment, ensuring safe and decent work for all and recognising and valuing unpaid care and domestic workers are also priorities for both international agendas.

Singing Our Lives 2018

This summer, music will unite refugees, migrants and British choir members for the Singing Our Lives (SOL) concert showcasing original music that celebrates the strength and resilience of the refugees and migrants, as the finale to Refugee Week 2018.

The concert marks the culmination of a unique creative process bringing together five amateur choirs and professional musicians through a series of workshops aimed at fostering unity among the diverse groups. The concert is the final apogee in a process that explored the themes of justice, changing seasons, and the cultural adjustment process, in addition to hearing real-life accounts from choir members. For some, this was their first interaction with refugees or asylum-seekers.

WHAT Singing Our Lives concert
WHEN Sunday 1st July 2018 at 18:00
WHERE Milton Court Concert Hall, Barbican, London
With over 8.8 million migrants and refugees living in the UK, according to IOM’s Migration Data Portal, active inclusion can reduce feelings of isolation and increase the contribution to British communities.

When migrants, refugees and communities come together and learn from each other - as they do for Singing Our Lives - this is the true essence of integration,” said Dipti Pardeshi, IOM UK Chief of Mission.

Over 200 performers will participate in the event at Milton Court, hosted by Together Productions, in partnership with IOM, Freedom from Torture, the Royal Opera House, Improbable, and the Guildhall School of Music & Drama.

Singing Our Lives combines opera, classical, popular and electronic genres with music from around the globe and performed by the Mixed Up Chorus, the Royal Opera House Thurrock Community Chorus, and the Sing for Freedom Choir, and Guildhall School musicians, Woven Gold and Stile Antico.

If you would like to attend, please click on the link to purchase a ticket.