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Refugees could add £1.2 billion in five years to UK economy, report says

28 March 2024

Positive outcomes could outweigh immigration costs, says Bishop of Chelmsford

A still from a video on the launch of the report, last week. One of the Commission’s 22 members was the Bishop of Chelmsford, Dr Guli Francis-Dehqani

A still from a video on the launch of the report, last week. One of the Commission’s 22 members was the Bishop of Chelmsford, Dr Guli Francis-Dehqani

THE UK economy could receive net benefits of £1.2 billion in five years if employment support and English-language for refugees were quickly implemented, a new report suggests.

The report, From Arrival to Integration: Building communities for refugees and for Britain, uses modelling developed by the London School of Economics, and sets out 16 recommendations. It was published last week by the Commission on the Integration of Refugees.

Immigration costs could be outweighed by positive outcomes in three years, the Commission says. Clear, targeted interventions that specifically support refugees and asylum-seekers into work could improve a refugee’s economic integration and potential for finding a job with a higher salary.

One of the Commission’s 22 members was the Bishop of Chelmsford, Dr Guli Francis-Dehqani. “These recommendations could improve life for refugees and the wider British public, upskill the UK economy, and raise a net income of more than £1 billion,” she said.

Describing the Commission’s work as “the most significant and detailed exploration of these issues in a generation” and “not just objectively commonsense solutions”, she said that “a new deal must be made for refugees in the UK — one that is fair, deliverable, and accountable. It’s time for a new approach.

“Here is a set of practical and achievable solutions on how to create an asylum system that helps build a stronger, more resilient, and economically flourishing Britain — for everyone.”

Between September 2022 and December 2023, the Commission received evidence from more than 1250 stakeholders, policy-makers, journalists, academics, and asylum-seekers and refugees themselves.

Dr Ed Kessler, who chaired the Commission, said: “Our work 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.”

The report also proposes a “new settlement” for refugees, by transferring the national system into “local integration partnerships”. Centrally controlled budgets and decisions, siloed schemes for different groups of refugees, and outsourcing to private contractors all need to be given to devolved governments, local authorities and communities, it argues. This, it says, would align funding, decision-making, and delivery where they are most important.

The reinstatement of a UK Refugee Minister is a policy goal in the recommendations to the Government, alongside more efficient processing, setting overall numbers, the need for strong governance and oversight of the whole system, and the creation of an independent reviewer of refugee affairs, involving people with experience as refugees.

The Archbishop of Canterbury welcomed the report. “It gives us an informed basis to talk, not only about how we welcome refugees, but how we help them to rebuild their lives and become full and contributing members of our communities. Integration is easy to say and hard to do — but this report takes us a step forward.”

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