OVER 70 per cent of refugees coming to Scotland say they are discriminated against while nearly 90 per cent are in financial difficulties.
Yet despite opportunities being weighed against them, a major study has found many refugees remain optimistic about their future in Scotland.
In the first part of a three year study by the Scottish Refugee Council, 262 refugees who had arrived in Scotland from 37 different countries between 1998 and 2010 were asked to fill in an in-depth questionnaire.
The study aims to provide information and understanding of the lives of refugees and people seeking asylum in Scotland with the research covering different areas of life, including health, education, communities, employment and housing.
While many expressed happiness at being able to live in safety, the findings show significant barriers to refugees being able to rebuild their lives in Scotland.
Refugees were found to have a diverse range of experiences and skills which could be of benefit to the country, and which could help them gain employment while almost half of respondents had qualifications.
But it was also found that health may be a barrier to integration for a significant proportion of refugees.
Refugees, especially those aged 65 or over, tend to have poorer health than the general UK population, and that refugees’ needs may be different to those of the general population.
It was also found that the poorer health of some refugees, such as women and those aged over 65, may have implications for integration, including finding a job and learning English.
One respondent said they were willing to become model citizens but the system was pitted against them.
“Integrating people is more than just relocating them, it should be about educating them and helping them to contribute their values in a positive way within their communities through engagement irrespective of their status,” said the respondent.
Another said they believed government and local authorities should do more to “achieve or to encourage immigrants to feel more integrated’.
John Wilkes, chief executive of Scottish Refugee Council, said the study showed a clear need for dedicated support on integration, from all levels of government – in order to help refugees fulfill the contributions they were so keen to make to Scottish life.
‘The UK Border Agency, run from Westminster, has pulled funding for its Refugee Integration and Employment Service from September 2011, despite indicating in its own research that integration assistance is vitally important to refugees.
“In his first speech of the new Scottish parliament, Alex Salmond restated his commitment to welcoming those who have fled persecution. Scotland has already made great strides to help refugees integrate from the moment they arrive. We now want to see the Scottish Government revisit their strategy for integration in light of our findings, as well as in light of UK-wide cuts.
“As we gear up to Refugee Week, which kicks off a month from today, we celebrate the contribution refugees from across the decades have made to Scotland and the UK. Let’s ensure today’s refugees are able to fulfill their own hopes and dreams.”