Author: Katrine Bussey
UK ministers are being urged to provide “more generous” assistance for Syrian refugees in England after researchers found those who had been resettled in Scotland were better supported and happier.
Experts from Glasgow University compared the treatment of Syrian refugees aged between 18 and 32 in the Lebanon, Greece and the UK.
But they also looked at the difference in support provided north and south of the border as part of the project – called Building a New Life in Britain.
Glasgow University head of philosophy Ben Coburn, one of the lead authors of the report, also said there was a “two-tier system” between those who came to the UK as part of a resettlement programme and those who arrived on their own and were seeking asylum.
Since the start of the civil war in Syria in 2011, more than 12 million people are thought to have fled their homes.
The research looked at the lives of 212 young Syrian refugees who have settled in England, along with 265 in Scotland.
It found: “In all, young Syrians who have settled in Scotland are much better supported compared to those in England.
“72% of our respondents in Scotland reported that their accommodation rent is subsidised by the state, compared to only 46% of those in England.
“Along the same lines, state cash subsidies constituted the main source of income for 70% of young Syrians in Scotland, compared to 47% of those in England.”
This means Syrian refugees in Scotland have “far better living conditions” – with only 11% ending up in shared accommodation, compared to 28% in England.
A lower level of state support in England pushes refugees there to find work faster “as self-reliance is adopted as a survival mechanism”.
But the report said this left refugees exposed to “precarious employment conditions” and also impacted on them emotionally.
While the report found young Syrians in England were more confident than their counterparts in Scotland, at 32% compared to 19%, it also said 14% were scared about their life in the UK, compared to 9% in Scotland.
It continued: “Moreover, young Syrians appear to be much happier in Scotland than in England (49% against 30%).
“These emotions feed directly into young Syrians’ plans for their future in the UK, with 81% of those in Scotland intending to remain in the country, compared to 65% of those in England.”
The report recommended: “If the aim of refugee policy is to facilitate settlement, rather than forced self-reliance, then the support offered to refugees in Scotland should be emulated across the UK, to confront the inequalities of the current system.”
Dr Coburn said it was “clear that the two-tier system isn’t working as consistently as it should if the goal is to foster social cohesion, facilitate integration and empower Syrian refugees to rebuild their lives”.
He added: “Preliminary findings from the next stage in our project indicate possible ways forward, including a more generous scheme of support for refugees such as the one offered in Scotland, imperfect though it is.”
The report also found just over a quarter (25.7%) of young Syrian refugees coming to the UK had a degree, compared to just 8.8% of their counterparts in Lebanon and 15.4% in Greece.
Just 2% of the Syrians coming to the UK had been unemployed when they left their home land, the research showed, with 38% studying and 45% in work.
As a result it called on politicians to “communicate much clearer to the general public both why refugees flee their country, as well as what contributions they are able and eager to make once they reach the United Kingdom”.