People with lived experience of the refugee and asylum system have a crucial role to play in helping us build a better future with refugees in Scotland.

Here’s how people seeking safety helped shape our work last year.  

Afghan Citizens Information Service

Our Afghan Citizens Information Service, supported more than 350 people fleeing the Taliban regime.

The 12-month project was staffed by people from Afghanistan who are fluent in Dari and Pashto and have personal experience of rebuilding their lives in Scotland.

Yalda Rasooli was one of the call handlers providing information and practical support by phone, email and WhatsApp.

“I have experienced refugee life and know how challenging it is until you are fully integrated within your new community. Even a very small assistance is a great help to people in this situation.” 

“I can easily show empathy with newly-arrived people because I know how they are feeling and how difficult it is. When refugees receive proper guidance and their problems are addressed, that is very rewarding.  

The Ukrainian Collective

We established a Ukrainian Collective, made up of 35 volunteers who have settled in communities across Scotland. Before their lives were turned upside down by the Russian invasion, they worked as lawyers, accountants, teachers, artists and entrepreneurs. Now they’re using their professional expertise and personal experience of seeking safety to advocate on behalf of fellow Ukrainians.

The Collective is split into three working groups, each representing a key challenge for refugees: language and culture, housing, and employment. They discuss the difficulties faced by their communities and propose practical solutions to these problems. Their recommendations are now being shared with the Scottish Government, local authorities and other relevant bodies supporting the resettlement of Ukrainians in Scotland.

Oleksandra Novatska chairs the Language and culture group.

“I don’t just want to be part of society here. I want to help build a better society where all people can work, study, volunteer and use their skills to benefit others. When we feel part of society, we can make it better for everyone.” 

Reaching New Scots Fund

Our refugee-led Reaching New Scots Fund awarded more than £800,000 to 35 community projects across Scotland.

This innovative new approach to funding was designed and managed by 11 people from refugee backgrounds in partnership with The National Lottery Community Fund.

Ronnie Tagwireyi was one of the volunteers leading on the project.

“Funding is usually top down, it’s never been done by people who are refugees and asylum seekers themselves. So, it was great when there were 100-and-something applications. It was an overwhelming response. 

“I’m really glad I was a part of it. We showed that this can be done and hopefully it’s the start of a change in how funding works. Hopefully other funders can look at this participatory funding process – that people with lived experience are involved at every stage – as something so good from start to finish. That would be absolutely fantastic.”  

Learning and improving

Six people with lived experience of the asylum system lead a research project to review the way we involve refugees in our work and suggest ways we can improve. Their recommendations will help us ensure that the skills, knowledge, and experiences of people seeking safety shape everything we do.

A member of the research team told us:

“Involving [people with lived experience] in projects means that people are not just seen as a commodity, as a number. They are seen as valued contributors to shaping and developing policies that impact them and those around them.” 

Rachel Lamb
Author: Rachel Lamb