Integration and onward migration of refugees in Scotland: preliminary evidence from the SUNRISE database

The UN Refugee Agency (Funder); Stewart, Emma. (2009) Integration and onward migration of refugees in Scotland: preliminary evidence from the SUNRISE database. Unknown Publisher. (Unpublished)

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Despite the operation of UK dispersal policy for nearly a decade, there has been little examination of the resulting impacts upon refugee mobility and integration. Implemented under the 1999 Immigration and Asylum Act, the rationale behind UK dispersal was to 'spread the burden' (Robinson et al. 2003). The housing of asylum seekers to various locations across the UK was employed to discourage settlement in the South East (and particularly London) and distribute costs amongst UK local authorities. The main aim was to relieve housing and social pressures in South East England, where the majority of new arrivals spontaneously concentrated. By instituting a policy of compulsory dispersal, UK asylum policy has removed an asylum seeker's freedom to choose where to settle. This means that since 2000, the UK Home Office has implemented a policy of dispersal whereby asylum seekers are housed on a no choice basis to locations around the country. Asylum seekers in the UK are housed in various locations in England, Scotland and Wales. At the end of December 2006, the top three dispersal towns in England were Leeds, Birmingham and Manchester (Bennett et al. 2007). All asylum seekers fully supported by NASS and dispersed to Scotland are located in Glasgow City (5,010). In Glasgow, housing is provided for asylum seekers by Glasgow City Council as well as the YMCA. A small number of asylum seekers are located in Edinburgh (75) and supported on a subsistence only basis. In Scotland, and indeed within the UK as a whole, the largest concentration of asylum seekers is housed within Glasgow. Furthermore, there are an estimated 10,000 refugees and asylum seekers in Scotland which represent over 50 different nationalities (Charlaff et al. 2004). As a result the discussion focuses upon this local case study. Dispersal policy is one key element of UK asylum policy that determines the geographical distribution of asylum seekers across the country. But nearly a decade since the UK Home Office implemented dispersal policy, knowledge gaps still remain in understanding the onward migration decisions of refugees. Despite the clear aim of dispersal to determine local and national movements of asylum seekers, there has been surprisingly little attention paid to the role played by current UK dispersal policy in onward migration and integration. Policy driven research has tended to focus upon international and national issues to the exclusion of micro level processes (Bowes et al. 2009). Indeed, the majority of literature on dispersal has focused upon critiquing the policy for being driven by void housing and concentrating vulnerable populations in deprived, inner city neighbourhoods. With attention clearly focused upon critiquing dispersal policy, the potential long-term implications for refugee integration have been under-researched. The aim of this paper is to reassert the importance of considering mobility issues in refugee integration research. The current UK asylum policy environment is considered before attention turns to the theoretical developments in understanding refugee integration. Empirical evidence is presented from the Scottish Refugee Council's SUNRISE (Strategic Upgrade of National Refugee Integration Services programme) database to identify the geography of onward migration flows as well as the diversity of individuals engaged in movement around the UK during the asylum process as well as after being granted or refused status. The empirical material is employed to provoke questions of how onward migration may be linked to refugee integration. This includes considering factors which predispose individuals to migrate and how this may usefully provide insights into the process of refugee integration.