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Major examination of UK asylum system by Commission on the Integration of Refugees recommends new approach with integration at its heart


New report sets out 16 evidence-based, economically costed, and practical recommendations to transform asylum

Date of Publication:
25 March 2024

A new report was published last week by the Woolf Institute's Commission on the Integration of Refugees that makes a strong call for a new, integration-based asylum system.

Report coverThe Woolf Institute is an academic institute seeking to improve relations between religion and society through education. In 2022, the Institute convened the Commission on the Integration of Refugees with the aim of improving the integration of refugees in the UK. Among the notable names on the Commission are the Refugee Council's Enver Solomon, former Supreme Court president Baroness Hale, and Dame Diana Johnson, Chair of the House of Commons Home Affairs Committee.

The new 94-page report, From Arrival to Integration: Building Communities for Refugees and for Britain, can be downloaded here. Six supporting research reports were also published to accompany the report and all can be accessed from here.

The Commission on the Integration of Refugees describes its work as "the most significant and detailed exploration of the UK asylum system in a generation". It says the current asylum system is broken and calls for a more effective, fair, and humane system.

Drawing on two years of research and wide-ranging evidence from more than 1,250 stakeholders, the report focuses on 16 practical recommendations to shape a new future for the UK's asylum system based on integration. Underpinning the recommendation is a financial model developed by the London School of Economics (LSE).

"The solutions we are proposing would not only be more effective than the current system, but cheaper, more coherent, more in tune with the values of compassion and fairness that so many people manifest towards asylum seekers, and capable of delivering long-term economic benefits and positive social outcomes both for refugees and wider British society," the Commission said.

The 16 recommendations, which are each explained fully in the report, are as follows:

• Devolve asylum and refugee resettlement support systems in a "New Settlement for Refugees". This calls for a whole system approach to put local integration partnerships in the driving seat of refugee integration.

• Develop a comprehensive Resettlement Scheme drawing on best practice and experience from recent and current programmes, including the Ukraine Family Scheme, Homes for Ukraine, the UK Resettlement Scheme (UKRS), and the Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Scheme (VPRS).

• Deliver housing through local integration partnerships, led by local authorities, to ensure that central government and independent sector resources are invested in the expansion of accommodation in communities, some of which would be reserved for refugees and asylum seekers. This would be beneficial to the whole population in need of housing, as well as to refugees and asylum seekers.

• Extend the transition period for asylum seekers to "move on" after being given leave to remain as refugees from 28 days to 56 days.

• Only use detention as a last resort and as a precursor to rapid removal where genuine absconding and/or security risks cannot otherwise be managed. Case-management alternatives offer better value for money, have been demonstrated to work, and are more humane. Children should not be detained under any circumstances.

• Avoid moving refugees and asylum seekers to different accommodation (after their initial placement) without their consent, unless there are exceptional circumstances, as this will impede their meaningful integration.

• Provide refugees and asylum seekers with access, free of charge, to English language provision from day one after they arrive in the UK, with local integration partnerships empowered to commission language provision to suit local needs.

• Enable all refugee and asylum-seeking children to access mainstream education immediately, no matter when they arrive in the school year. Schools and colleges should be incentivised to provide appropriate education and support.

• Provide language access/ assistance to all refugees and asylum seekers for the initial six-month period after arrival.

• Ensure that appropriate pathways are in place for refugees and asylum seekers to meet their full educational potential by recognising qualifications and providing access to further and higher education.

• Make people in the asylum system eligible for general employment after six months of waiting for their asylum decision. This eligibility should not be limited to the jobs on the Shortage Occupation List.

• Make people in the asylum system eligible for jobs on the Shortage Occupation List from day one. Consideration should be given to a Government-backed finance scheme to assist those granted refugee status who wish to set up in business.

• Create a programme of employment support for all refugees and those asylum seekers who are allowed to work.

• Provide a "Welcome to the UK" pack for all refugees and asylum seekers upon arrival, learning from and building on existing examples.

• Establish more Welcome Hubs, bringing together the local community, local government, and civil society.

• Carry out Joint Strategic Needs Assessments (through collaboration between the NHS executive and civil society (including charities, faith groups, and diaspora organisations) to increase understanding of the composition and needs of local refugees and asylum seekers. Findings should inform the planning, development, and offering of relevant, inclusive, and responsive care systems that improve health and address health inequalities.

Dr Ed Kessler, the president of the Woolf Institute and the chair of the Commission, stated: "Our work over the last couple of years, listening to people from across the country, commissioning research and exploring these issues has provided a rich insight into what is clearly a broken system. It's expensive, inefficient and damaging for refugees and Britain. But amongst the debris were findings that gave us real hope and inspiration for a very different system. One that supports refugees, communities and wider society to thrive. One that our political leaders can realistically embrace."