Home UK Immigration Language class problems deny women refugees ‘new life’

Language class problems deny women refugees ‘new life’

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Author:Chris Wood

After escaping police in Eritrea, she crossed a desert, war zone and sea before entering the UK in the back of a lorry.

Along with other women refugee and asylum seekers, she is seen as at risk of becoming isolated because of limited opportunities to learn the language.

The Welsh Refugee Council called for women to have the same chances as men.

There are 70 women on a Red Cross scheme in Newport and plans for one in Wrexham – with calls for more tailored classes with crèche and childcare facilities.

“I taught at a Cardiff school and there were children who spoke English like natives, but their mothers couldn’t,” said Theresa Mgadzah Jones, who runs the Newport classes.

“I asked ‘why?’ You then wonder about tabloid stories – that they do not want to integrate – or they are lazy.”

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She found “a pattern” – almost all college places were given to men.

Often women were offered places but did not take them because there were no childcare facilities.

Mrs Mgadzah Jones came to the UK in 1972 as a refugee from what is now Zimbabwe because her parents wanted to give her opportunities not offered there.

“I want women to have equality and the opportunity to develop a new life for themselves and integrate into the community,” she said.

“The husband has a job, children go to school but some women on the course have been here seven years but had no chance to learn English.”

Another asylum seeker Xialing Zhao, from China, has been in the UK six years and was left depressed and housebound from not having a chance to learn English.

There is a creche at the base in Pill, Newport, with numbers increasing each year.

Classes start at beginner level for women from countries such as Sudan and Afghanistan who are unable to read or write in their own language.

They are taught basics to be able to phone the doctor, their child’s school or go shopping.

After three years, Mrs Mgadzah Jones encourages women to enrol on a college course.

The Red Cross said it is “impossible” to estimate how many women are affected, with people given refugee status able to move anywhere in the UK.

However, from January, there were 2,910 asylum seekers gaining support to live in Wales.

A Welsh Local Government Association (WLGA) survey found there are colleges offering English classes in all council areas.

However, it added: “The reality is that finding classes at the right level and within reach, with places available at the right time for enough hours, is not always possible.”

It pointed to Cardiff and Swansea – where 500 people were waiting for places – as areas where not everyone got on courses.

Its report said UK government childcare funding is available for when a college does not have a crèche, adding many find it “impossible” to attend without it.

A Nation of Sanctuary – Refugee and Asylum Seeker Plan has been drawn up by the Welsh Government.

Tackling “inequalities and poverty” are among the aims as it is taken forward.

The Welsh Refugee Council spokeswoman said she wants barriers such as childcare issues and “cultural inhibitors” addressed to give women the same opportunities as men.

Source: https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-wales-44601828

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