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Refugee integration

Analysis of the Survey of New Refugees

Cultural diversity on highstreet
Researchers: Sarah Tipping
Published: July 2010


We analysed the Survey of New Refugees (SNR), a longitudinal study of refugee integration in the UK, in order to examine integration in terms of the English language skills, employment and housing of new refugees.


There's increasing employment among refugees but often in low-grade jobs

Employment rates among refugees increased from 34% eight months after their asylum decision to 49% at 21 months. More than half of the new refugees who were employed at 21 months felt overqualified for their jobs.

Many refugees change accommodation, but rarely move outside their initial area of settlement

Three-quarters of refugees moved home within eight months of their asylum decision (including many who had to leave accommodation provided by the National Asylum Support Service). Most changes in accommodation were within the same city or region.

Time in the UK and refugee age are crucial factors in integration

Refugees who had lived in the UK for some time before receiving asylum typically had better English language skills, better qualifications, and more (and more recent) employment experiences. All these factors together enhanced their chances of further integration.

Refugees aged 54-plus faced greater barriers to integration, in particular with respect to their language skills and their ability to improve these skills.

Language skills are a key factor in integration

79% of refugees who said they spoke English language 'very well' at the time of their asylum decision were in employment 21 months later. Only 18% who said they spoke English 'not at all' had gained jobs within the same timeframe.

Refugees' English language skills improve gradually
The proportion of refugees who reported a high level of English language skills increased from 26% soon after their asylum decision to 38% 21 months later.

In contrast, the proportion reporting poor language skills decreased from 38 to 15%. Most refugees attended language courses to improve their language skills.


Analysis of data from the SNR, conducted between 2005 and 2009. The survey included all new refugees aged 18 or over who were granted a positive decision of asylum, humanitarian protection or discretionary leave to remain between 1 December 2005 and 25 March 2007.

Read the report