Free English lessons 'would help refugees to integrate'

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The Independent Online

Refugees would be integrated into British society much more quickly if they were given free English language lessons, a survey said.

Research into the experiences of refugees who have arrived in this country over the past 50 years found access to English lessons was critical, but few were offered the chance to take classes.

Most of the 30 refugees questioned said they felt British and had made friends with people outside their country of origin. But only one in eight of those surveyed for Refugee Support had made friends with their neighbours and almost all were under-employed or working in jobs where their qualifications were not recognised.

The study, by the Institute for Public Policy Research, also found refugees were more likely to vote in elections and take part in community activities than people who were born in the UK. Barbara Roche, chairwoman of the Metropolitan Support Trust, said: "This is the first piece of research to be commissioned by Metropolitan Support's new research and consultancy unit and we hope that the significant findings and recommendations will help inform future discussions about refugee integration, Britishness and citizenship.

"For the past 50 years, we have been helping refugees rebuild their lives in the UK. We know that those we help want to integrate into Britain, they want to be accepted and we aim to help them but the system doesn't always help us.

"This report clearly outlines some key changes that are needed."