The UK Government has announced plans to quit funding vital services for people seeking refugee protection in the event of a no deal Brexit.

The announcement has shocked charities across the UK, particularly those, like ourselves, who provide front line advice and support services to people at a difficult and vulnerable time in their lives.

We currently receive funding from the EU to help people who have fled torture, terrorism and civil war rebuild their lives in safety in Scotland.

But finding your feet in a new country is not easy Our advisers help people with the basic building blocks of life here: finding a job, applying for college, sorting out housing and money issues and learning to speak English.

The UK Government assured us and other charities that they would underwrite this funding in the event of the UK leaving the EU without a deal. But in a shocking u-turn we’ve been told that funding for these services will be cut in the event of a no deal scenario.

Sabir Zazai, CEO of Scottish Refugee Council said:

“We are shocked and angry about this reversal of assurances given to us by the Home Office last year.

“Refugee integration services are an investment in all of our futures. When people feel settled and connected and able to put roots down in a place everyone in the community benefits.

“Our team works hard every day to help people feel at home here in Scotland. To help people cope with the stress and anxiety of a life uprooted and disrupted and to nurture people’s ambitions to build a new life in safety here.

“We believe this work is important and we see every day in our packed waiting room the need for this type of support.

“Integration is not a straightforward process. It takes long term investment and support. Without this, the risk is that people end up moving from war zones straight into poverty and destitution in the UK.

“That’s why this funding is so important. We are a charity, we don’t make a profit or pay for shareholders. But we do make our funding go a long way to help the people who need it. The UK Government is threatening our essential services and the people we care deeply about as part of a no deal Brexit that puts so many of our rights at risk.”

Along with fellow refugee charities across the UK we have written today to the Chancellor calling for this decision to be reversed. See out letter in The Times today.

What is Scottish Refugee Council’s EU-funded programme?

In 2018, Scottish Refugee Council received £2.2m from the EU’s Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund (AMIF) to develop and implement activities to support refugee integration in Scotland.

Our activities support people at a foundational level- in realising and accessing their rights and citizenship along with support with employment, housing, education and health and providing support for social connections at a community level.

Our New Scots Integration: Rights & Communities project comprises 3 other organisations- Scottish Faiths Action for Refugees (administered by the Church of Scotland), Workers’ Educational Association and Bridges Programmes to provide a holistic and rounded programme of activities.

Why does this matter?

When people receive refugee status they are given just 28 days by the government to secure safe and suitable housing and sustainable income before their Home Office accommodation and stipend are cut completely. If they are unable to register for appropriate benefits or secure employment and secure housing within this time they face destitution and street homelessness

An interruption to the service provided to refugees in this crucial 28-day move on period is likely to translate to a potential delay in them accessing housing advice, a bank account, a GP, benefits, schooling and other advice services.

This is especially disruptive to our client base, most of whom have experienced trauma and have complex mental health needs already. This is a disruption to services they crucially need, when they need them most, leaving them without credible alternative.

What is the impact of withdrawal of funding?

As the biggest refugee charity and main provider of refugee support and advice in Scotland, the withdrawal of this funding would have an extremely negative effect on our clients and flies in the face of Scottish Government and Home Office commitments to helping New Scots integrate effectively into society and help people access their rights and entitlements.

Chris Pettigrew
Author: Chris Pettigrew