Public Release: 

Wanted: A coherent strategy on asylum seekers

Economic & Social Research Council

New research funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) has revealed a lack of coordination among the various bodies dealing with asylum seekers in Britain.

In three areas examined in detail - East Kent, Liverpool, and the London Borough of Southwark - the researchers, at Goldsmith's College, London, found there was no overall strategy for preserving and promoting good community relations. And, they say, "almost nowhere in the UK" is there a coherent, comprehensive local strategy. This is in spite of the effective practices of individual organisations and occasional partnerships which have, in some places, contributed to a marked improvement in local community relations.

One of the principal researchers, Dr Saulo Cwerner, was taken aback by the lack of information available to asylum seekers and those trying to help them and their host communities.

"The lack of communication was I think one of the main things we discovered. At times it was very, very startling. There were even times when I found I was relaying information, rather than collecting it," he says.

The ESRC report identifies a number of obstacles to the development of an effective multi-agency approach to integration and community relations. It also draws attention to the main areas where more information - and better information - is urgently needed:

  • Asylum seekers themselves need to know not only about their rights and sources of advice, but also about their responsibilities, and the "basic norms of British society". They also need to be told about their particular local community, and have access to English language teaching. It is expected that the new Government initiative of induction centres will deliver such information in a coordinated way.

  • The local community needs to know more about the asylum seekers they are 'hosting'. The new research suggests a public relations campaign of 'myth busting' to dispel ignorance, and also to highlight success stories about well integrated asylum seekers and refugees.

  • Government and voluntary bodies, and other agencies such as the police, need to be informed about legislation and local initiatives. Most organisations and groups, especially in the voluntary sector, are under resourced and often struggle to meet the complex needs of asylum seekers. Resources available for information and communication strategies are limited.

    The research results are being distributed to 'stakeholders' - voluntary bodies and agencies dealing with asylum seekers around the country, as part of a wider drive to coordinate services and improve community relations.

    The report notes: "One of the fundamental issues that this research has revealed is the fact that almost nowhere in the UK is there a coherent, comprehensive local community relations strategy involving a great number of relevant stakeholders in the statutory, voluntary, and community sectors. More specifically, in the three areas studied in more detail for this project such overall strategy does not exist, at least formally, although one can discern some basic elements that could potentially become central aspects of such strategies."

    Although partnerships and forums have developed in many areas, local organisations - especially voluntary groups - need more help to combine their individual efforts into consistent and coordinated community relations strategies.

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