The Long-Term Integration of Gateway Protection Programme Refugees in Motherwell, North Lanarkshire

Duncan Sim, Kait Laughlin, Chik Collins, Francis Stuart

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    In 2005, North Lanarkshire Council (NLC) decided to participate in the Gateway Protection Programme (GPP), the UK’s official refugee resettlement programme, and the Council remains the only local authority in Scotland to do so. In 2007, a total of 77 refugees from the Democratic Republic of Congo were resettled in Motherwell. In 2008, the University of the West of Scotland completed an evaluation for NLC of the first year of refugee settlement in the town.

    The 2008 evaluation

    The report (Sim and Gow 2008) acknowledged the success of the multi-agency and inter-departmental approach taken in North Lanarkshire. Refugees had been helped into employment, although at the time many of the jobs being undertaken by refugees were temporary and some relatively poorly paid. Many refugees were working at a level below their qualifications
    and abilities.

    In contrast to local authorities in England participating in the GPP, North Lanarkshire had allocated refugee families secure tenancies in social rented housing. As a result, families were generally satisfied with the houses they had been allocated and there was also a satisfaction with the neighbourhood, despite occasional instances of anti-social behaviour. Many refugees viewed their neighbours as friendly or helpful.

    Education services were highly valued by the refugees, particularly at school level and families were pleased with – and proud of – their children’s progress. As far as adult education was concerned, ESOL1 classes were valued, and some refugees had chosen to attend college, so that they could receive formal certification which they could show to a future employer. It was recognised that ESOL classes would continue to be necessary for some time.

    There was a general satisfaction with GP services, and refugees were happy with the treatment they had received. None of the refugees referred explicitly to trauma or to mental health problems in the interviews, although occasionally, they touched on emotional issues. Professionals were, however, becoming increasingly concerned at the emergence of trauma
    and mental health issues.

    It appeared that the Congolese refugees were ‘settling’ in Motherwell and beginning to make friends with Scottish people, although the process was taking time. The process was easier for children and younger people who were attending school and perhaps also for those men who were in employment or attending college. Women who remained at home with
    children did not mix as much. It was generally accepted that it was perhaps rather early for refugees to feel comfortable participating in local organisations, although the important exception to this was church attendance, and churches were an important part of life for all refugee families.

    Many refugees were thinking of applying for British citizenship. In the interim, they were seeking to obtain Refugee Travel Documents and some a driving licence (important in applying for jobs). The process of obtaining documentation was, however, time-consuming and potentially frustrating.

    The present study

    In 2008, it became clear that there were some issues emerging which had the potential to be problematic on an ongoing basis. One was a concern about finance and there was a degree of confusion about the welfare benefits system, and about household bills (including Council Tax); many families worried as to how they might pay these.

    Other ongoing information issues related to areas such as employment and education, where refugees were sometimes unsure who to ask or talk to for advice. So, while it was important that the high level of support offered during the first year was reduced, so that refugees could achieve their independence, at the same time this needed to be balanced with
    some level of ongoing support.

    The School of Social Sciences of the University of the West of Scotland, with funding from the UWS-Oxfam Partnership and the support of NLC, decided to undertake a second study of the Congolese refugees in 2013, to talk to them about their experiences during the intervening six years, and to identify ongoing concerns. A total of 18 interviews were carried out, involving 17 households and 30 individual participants; some households declined to be involved.

    Although most of the men are still in employment, the majority have worked in insecure, part-time jobs with periods of unemployment in between. Many refugees are not using the skills which they possess and so job satisfaction was very variable. The majority of women did not work, although many wanted to and this reflects both a lack of opportunity and a lack of childcare facilities. It may be that Motherwell is too small a town to offer a full range of employment opportunities although these may exist in the wider Lanarkshire and Greater Glasgow areas.

    The insecurity of employment had an important impact on financial security and most families worried about money and paying household bills. This issue surfaced throughout the interviews.

    Satisfaction with housing remained relatively high, perhaps because refugee households were housed safely and with security of tenure. But some were unhappy at living in flats, and there was significant concern about overcrowding. Since arrival in Motherwell, many families had expanded and almost all families were now living in overcrowded conditions. The
    local authority, however, has a shortage of larger houses to which they might move.

    As previously, there was a relatively high level of satisfaction with health services. Some refugees had experienced physical health problems but, as before, we were unable to ascertain the extent of mental health problems as this was possibly too sensitive a subject for most people.

    As in 2008, education was valued both at school level and in regard to further and higher education, although there were significant concerns at perceived reductions in ESOL provision. One finding from this particular survey was a widespread feeling that the refugees were being insufficiently ‘stretched’ intellectually. Schoolchildren sometimes believed that their teachers underestimated their capabilities, while some adults felt that they were repeatedly being advised to improve their English rather than being given more stimulating educational experiences.

    In terms of local neighbourhoods, most refugees were content with where they lived, although there was widespread evidence of racism. In many cases, it took the form of verbal abuse – almost on a ‘casual’ basis – but in some instances, physical assaults had occurred. Some refugees felt angry and had expected to be treated with more respect while, for others, they took the view that there were ‘good and bad’ people everywhere. Although many families liked local areas and valued the green spaces accessible from the town, there was a discomfort with levels of drink- and drug-taking in parts of Motherwell.

    For some families, racist experiences reflected the fact that Motherwell was a relatively small town with limited experience of multiculturalism. Many interviewees were able to draw comparisons with Glasgow, where there were very much larger numbers of black and minority ethnic people (12 per cent at the 2011 Census) and minorities might be thought to be less
    obviously visible.

    Finally, although at the time of our 2008 evaluation, many refugees had anticipated applying for British citizenship, the high costs involved in this had acted as a significant deterrent. Most refugees expressed resentment at this, as they felt they had been led to believe that citizenship would be made easier than it actually was.

    More detailed conclusions are contained in Chapter 7, where they are discussed in the context of the various headings or ‘domains’ within the Oxfam Humankind Index. We also include a list of recommendations on which we hope that organisations like North Lanarkshire Council and New College Lanarkshire, with whom the report will be shared, will be able to act.
    Original languageEnglish
    Place of PublicationPaisley
    PublisherUWS-Oxfam Partnership
    Commissioning bodyUWS-Oxfam Partnership
    Number of pages70
    Publication statusPublished - Oct 2014

    Publication series

    NameUWS-Oxfam Partnership, Collaborative Research reports Series
    PublisherUWS-Oxfam Partnership


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