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Progressive Judaism backs calls for new deal on refugee integration

Two prominent Progressive Jews have played a key role in a report calling for a new deal on refugee integration that works for both refugees and wider British society.

Progressive Judaism Advisory Board Chair Dr Ed Kessler MBE is Chair of the Commission on the Integration of Refugees, which spent the last two years conducting the most significant and detailed exploration of the UK asylum system in a generation. You can read it here.

From Arrival To Integration: Building Communities For Refugees And For Britain

Baroness Rabbi Julia Neuberger, was one of 22 Commissioners involved in producing the report, titled ‘From Arrival To Integration: Building Communities For Refugees And For Britain’.

Despite the difference in political perspectives and backgrounds of the 22 Commissioners, agreement on 16 recommendations was achieved. These include:

  • Provide refugees and asylum seekers with access, free of charge, to English language provision from day one after they arrive in the UK.
  • Make people in the asylum system eligible for general employment after six months of waiting for their asylum decision.
  • Create a programme of employment support for all refugees and those asylum seekers who are allowed to work.
  • Recognise qualifications and provide access to further and higher education.

Modelling from the London School of Economics (LSE) found that if only the first two recommendations listed above were implemented, then the benefits would outweigh costs within three years, and by the end of year five produce an overall net economic benefit of £1.2 billion.

A separate survey of 755 refugees and asylum seekers, demonstrates their untapped potential – with 1 in 3 respondents having a bachelor’s degree or equivalent and 1 in 4 with a master’s degree or equivalent. More than two thirds reported that not being able to use their skills to contribute to society as much as they would like had affected their self-confidence.

The Commission also calls for a ‘new settlement for refugees’, with a total shift of the refugee integration system, away from centrally controlled budgets and decisions, siloed schemes for different groups of refugees and outsourcing to private contractors. It calls for ‘local integration partnerships’, which would put decision making, delivery and funding in the control of devolved governments, local authorities and communities.

Dr Ed Kessler MBE

Presenting the findings, Dr Ed Kessler said: “Our work over the last couple of years has provided a rich insight into what is clearly a broken system. It’s expensive, inefficient and damaging for refugees and Britain.

“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.”

Welcoming the report, Progressive Judaism Co-Leads Rabbi Josh Levy and Rabbi Charley Baginsky said: “This report is the most significant study of the British asylum system in a generation and highlights the important role that faith communities have to play.

“In our Jewish tradition, the importance of welcoming the stranger is central. We believe that we are all made in the image of God and, furthermore, that it is our duty to care for the most vulnerable. We are also very aware of our own experiences. Most of us are only here today because Britain, or another country, gave our ancestors safety and shelter. We, in turn, must do the same for others.

“We agree with the report’s findings that it is possible to find agreement – through debate and consensus – in order to build a fair, deliverable and accountable new deal for refugees in the UK.”

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