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A journey towards safety: A report on the experiences of Eritrean refugees in the UK

A journey towards safety: A report on the experiences of Eritrean refugees in the UK

Ibrahim, a refugee from Eritrea, walks back to the shop after test riding a bicycle outside The Bike Project shop at Denmark Hill in south London.

For Eritreans in the UK, integration assistance can be inconsistent and inadequate. UNHCR, together with the Scottish Refugee Council and the Refugee Council, are proposing reforms to address the challenges the community faces 

Foreword by Gonzalo Vargas Llosa, UNHCR Representative to the UK

"For refugees who have lost everything, who are often without the support of family and friends, and who may carry the scars of trauma and tragedy, building a new life can be a difficult and daunting task. Mandated to protect refugees, UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency provides life-saving shelter and assistance to refugees around the world.

This report finds that for Eritrean refugees recognised in the UK, Government-provided integration assistance can be inconsistent and inadequate. Many of the refugees we interviewed faced lengthy delays in the determination of their refugee status, leaving them feeling anxious and unsettled. Even after they were granted status, difficulties accessing mainstream services, housing, and English language classes were common. Few were able to find work matching their skills and experience.

Yet despite their setbacks, the majority of Eritreans who took part in this research were happy to be safe, felt welcomed in the UK, and were generally positive about their futures. I am grateful for the collaboration with the Refugee Council and Scottish Refugee Council in preparing this report which provides the Government and Local Authorities with constructive recommendations to improve policies and services for refugees.

With the right kind of support, refugees can thrive and give back to the communities that have welcomed them in. At a time when 68.5 million people are uprooted around the world, solidarity with refugees is needed more than ever."

Background and context to the report

UNHCR commissioned this Participatory Assessment, which was conducted together with the Refugee Council (in England) and Scottish Refugee Council (in Scotland) to gain a better understanding of the experiences of Eritrean refugees recognised in-country and how these experiences have impacted upon their integration and protection in the UK.

This is in line with UNHCR’s mandate to support refugee integration and its call for a strengthening of related policy and practice for all refugees in the UK, irrespective of how they arrived.

The Refugee Council and the Scottish Refugee Council have both worked for decades with refugees to ensure they are given the protection they need, that they are treated with respect and understanding, and that they have the same rights, opportunities and responsibilities as other members of our society.