English UK members thanked for supporting refugees – but more places are needed
7 December 2022

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English UK members thanked for supporting refugees – but more places are needed

English UK members were among those mentioned at an evening of thanks organised by our partners RefuAid.

Anna Jones, co-founder and chief executive of the charity, which supports refugees and asylum seekers to rebuild their lives in the UK through language, education and employment, thanked organisations who had enabled the transformation of families' lives:

"We'd like to thank the partners who work with us, devoting so much time and support, pro bono. This includes our wonderful language schools, our employment partners and financial partners. Most of all, I want to say thank you to those we've supported in the past six years for showing the human extent of resilience – the resilience as a mother logs on to register for her UK accreditation exam hours after giving birth and still on the maternity ward; the hope a doctor has demonstrated after receiving a job at a level commensurate with his experience after 14 knockbacks and months of unemployment."

"This hope, resilience and unity is not loud like the headlines are. It sadly has not grabbed attention in the way the anti-immigration rhetoric does. They are attributes that are tough but gentle, impressive but quiet, inspirational but too often unnoticed."

RefuAid successes

Things to be proud of, she said, included the repayment rate of 98.6% that RefuAid have on their interest-free requalification loans, which enable clients to re-access their professional fields; over 140 doctors now working in NHS trusts across the UK; and over 450 people who have been able to begin their university degrees.

However, she said, demand is far exceeding capacity and people will not stop fleeing horrors such as Putin's bombs and children facing starvation:

"We are now receiving more applications for our support in larger numbers than we ever have before and our ask to you is to stick with us as we try our best to address the need."

Anna explained that many overseas-qualified professionals and students require a high-level English language qualification, with universities often focused on IELTS, which is can be an incredibly challenging exam to prepare for.

"The tuition required takes so long and is so intensive, and there isn't investment and support. Without that people are forced into survival jobs. When people fled Ukraine they could work in the UK immediately which was great, but the urgency to work overrode the urgency to learn English and I do think that's the number one priority. Morally we should be helping people, but there's a huge economic side to this – why not invest in people being able to live independently?"

More language support needed for professionals who need to requalify

Mohib Ullah, RefuAid's Head of Language Programme, said that while the government provide ESOL for new arrivals, this does not help those who had qualifications or professions and needed strong advanced English.

"That's where we come in, thanks to our amazing partners. We support doctors with full-time tuition, saving time and enabling them to requalify as fast as possible - because without a doubt, it is harder to do that the longer you are out of practice. A three or four-year gap on a CV means it can be really difficult to requalify."

More partner schools are currently needed on a longer-term basis, said Chief Operating Officer, Kate Higgins: "We currently have a waiting list of over 4000 people who need our support. These are people who are ultimately stuck until they are able to learn, study, work and rebuild their lives."

Stories of resilience

Moving stories told by RefuAid clients at the event included that of Eid Aljazairli, now studying Accounting and Finance at university. After fleeing Syria and experiencing homelessness in multiple countries, Eid survived the sinking of his boat between Turkey and Greece. At the time, he was unable to swim and believed he was going to die. Somehow he survived and made it to safety in the UK.

Once in the UK, Eid began learning English with the support of RefuAid and English UK members Stafford House and International House London, with the aim of joining a UK university and pursuing his educational ambition. Now, not only is he in his second year at Kings College London, but – after being inspired by Michael Phelps – has now taught himself to swim, to the extent that he is now two seconds off qualifying for the next Refugee Olympics team.

"We have 24 hours in every day - how shall I invest my time? We can learn, improve, do something slightly different. Without being a refugee, I would never have been in the UK seeing this new person I am seeing every single day. In a way I am very grateful to be in this country with support from the government and RefuAid."

Dr Inna Soldatenko, an Associate Professor in Rheumatology who arrived from Ukraine in May, said language was the main barrier for doctors arriving in the UK and looking to return to work. She has been studying at Wimbledon School of English and said "when I arrived here I was really frustrated – I created a group on Telegram which now has 3,500 Ukrainian doctors. The GMC requires IELTS or OET and that's why we are so grateful for all this support with OET and IELTS which helps us get jobs. Thank you so much."

RefuAid and English UK

RefuAid partners with UK language teaching centres to give their clients access to the language teaching they need to pass IELTS or OET exams, allowing them to continue their careers or education in the UK.  The charity also provides loans enabling clients to get the UK accreditation and training they need to return to work.

More than 80 English UK centres have supported over 600 RefuAid clients to get the IELTS or OET qualification they needed since the charity was founded in 2015.

RefuAid needs more centres to offer free places to its clients.

If you can help, visit the RefuAid website for more information about becoming a partner school.








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