The timeframe of New Scots has been set against a backdrop of changing politics and world events. Media reports have indicated changing political attitudes across a wide range of issues. The humanitarian crisis has increased awareness of refugees and also emphasised the complex challenges countries face due to international events which no single country can control or resolve.
In Scotland, there has been broad support for humanitarian action to help refugees and offer a place of safety. New Scots has not underestimated the challenges of successfully supporting refugees and the communities they settle in. Nor does it presume universal acceptance for refugees.
Integration is a long-term process. While it is important for early engagement to help support refugees to settle and meet their immediate needs, longer term support is also necessary for both refugees and the communities where they have made their home.
The needs and priorities of refugees will change as they begin to rebuild their lives. It may take time for the full effect of their trauma or experiences to have an impact. As people settle their priorities and aspirations may change, particularly as opportunities to pursue their ambitions and potential develop. It is important that they are able to access the services and support they need for their health and wellbeing as well as to enable them to fulfil their potential and become active members of their community.
New Scots partners recognise that a key achievement has been establishing the collaborative networks which form the basis of the thematic groups and enable sharing of experience, good practice and awareness more broadly as part of a coordinated approach.
The New Scots approach is ambitious and the three years of the strategy has seen some real progress in:
- Collating and sharing existing good practice to support refugees.
- Identifying barriers to access of the services and support refugees need and considering ways to improve processes to reduce these barriers.
- Raising awareness of refugees and understanding of their experiences.
Work across all six thematic groups has contributed to improving Scotland's approach to supporting refugees to integrate into our communities from day one. Specific work on immediate needs from health and welfare benefits to accommodation has made real progress in improving refugees initial experience of life in Scotland. ESOL continues to be a priority for refugees and a key focus of work for education and employability. Being able to communicate in English helps refugees to become more independent and improve opportunities for engagement in their local community. New Scots work has also aimed to instil long-term benefits by improving access to mainstream services and supporting refugees to pursue opportunities for education and employment. Innovative approaches like peer education have potential to reach beyond refugees directly involved and contribute to the development of more resilient communities.
There remain a number of significant challenges for refugees living in our communities. Commitment has already been made to develop a new strategy, building on the experience and progress of New Scots. The next strategy will seek opportunities to involve new partners, to expand to be truly national in scope and to improve engagement for refugees throughout the process. New Scots will continue in partnership to make Scotland a welcoming place to people seeking protection from persecution and human rights abuses.
Email: Scotland's Refugee Strategy