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  • Monday 10th October 2016 Radisson Blu, Bristol

    #rethinkingrefugeeConference Outcome Report

  • Introduction

    Following a packed event of over 80 people at our #rethinkingrefugee Conference in Bristol on Monday 10th October 2016, a way ahead was agreed on this urgent matter. We have already

    started to take the next steps, but need your help and support!

    Speakers included Fuad Mahamed, Chief Executive & Richard Thickpenny, Business Development Manager from Ashley Community Housing, Professor Monder Ram OBE, Centre for Research in Ethnic Minority Entrepreneurship, University of Birmingham Business School and a panel of experts including Adam Powell (Director of Skills, West of England Local Enterprise Partnership), Paul Jacobs (Service Director, Education & Skills, Bristol City Council), and Cllr Paul Smith (Cabinet Member for Homes & Communities, Bristol City Council), Cllr Ruth Pickersgill (Chair, Bristol Refugee Rights), chaired by David Jepson (Consultant, Ashley Community Housing).

    The event was opened by award winning local writer Nathan Filer and his partner Emily Parker who have themselves invested to become ACH landlords and provide vital housing for refugees. Cllr Estella Tincknell, Deputy Mayor of Bristol, wrapped up the discussion and Mayor Marvin Rees sent a message of support.

    The following is a summary of the outcomes of the discussions and the issues discussed on the day:

    Refugees are an asset not liabilityWe face the most serious refugee crisis in the last twenty years, with more people displaced since last WW2. Too often we see the refugee issue as a burden

    to society and at best humanitarian and charity issue. A humanitarian response designed for the short-term too often ends up administering long-term misery. Rather than transitioning from emergency relief to long-term reintegration, refugee populations too often get trapped within the system. This benefits nobody. The existing paradigm fails to adequately recognise that refugees have talents, skills, and aspirations. A rethink is urgently needed.

    HousingHousing problems faced by refugees reflect the wider housing crisis in Bristol where we need to build more properties and release investment as well as do more to protect private sector tenants. We need to project a positive image of the role of refugees and here the media has an important role and we need to ensure positive stories are presented.

    ACH new perspective of refugee resettlement and integrationOur aim is to explore some new perspectives concerning integration and resettlement refugees from our grassroots and community based approach

    Key outcomes of the conference: Setting priorities for action

    Accommodation Support Work Skills Enterprising Skills Move On

    Five Stage Innovation Model

    Resettlement Stage Integration Stage

    In Bristol we must see refugees as an asset, not as a problem. We need to make the best use of their skills and expertise. This is part of my vision of a Bristol that works for all its residents, not just the few. And this is why we need you, the stakeholders here today, to come together to make this happen. Message from Marvin Rees, Mayor of Bristol

  • and experience. Whilst human rights and safety are of course paramount, we must give greater priority to employment and economic development opportunities if we are to offer a genuine integration and better life to refugees and forced migrants coming to UK. Early labour market integration for refugees is the best method for refugee integration, and this can be achieved through cultural sensitive support, training and sector focused employment skills.

    Rethinking refugees as entrepreneursRefugees too often have high entrepreneurship skills and run successful businesses in their home countries. We need to encourage them to start business and remove any barriers. ACH is carrying out research with Birmingham University studying what the drivers and barriers to migrant and refugee businesses are.

    Collective impactWhen working with refugees the narrative can be disheartening with the media controlling and framing a very negative debate. Tight budgets and funding shortfalls pitch refugee support organisations against each other with the result refugees are rarely considered other than to be disadvantaged and economically burdensome. Meanwhile institutional timidity sees Local Authorities and other agencies freeze through a fear of moving out of their cultural comfort zones compounded by a lack of concrete data or well-directed policy debate.

    We can change policy by collaborating to aggregate the collective impact of all those working with refugees in the city, agreeing a joint approach to economic integration, driving an agenda to bend available funding to achieve positive change for refugees, and using our access to news channels to show the positive impacts on the local economy. Without a collective approach the opportunities for social change will continue to be missed and the mainstream will continue to fail Bristols refugee community

    Next steps

    We are determined to make sure that this wasnt just a great conference. Actions speak louder than words and the following actions came out of the event:

    The current Bristol City Council administration is placing a very strong emphasis on Bristol being a city for all and where no one will be left behind. Hate crime and direct discrimination will not be tolerated and should be reported.

    More positive stories and images of refugees are needed in the media and we should all take steps to make sure such stories are submitted

    We need to have a better understanding of the context for supporting refugees in relation to employment and economic opportunity, and a mapping /needs assessment exercise within the West of England is needed to provide a framework for future action. ACH will elaborate a proposal for this.

    Dialogue is needed with Bristol City Council to fine tune the mechanisms by which it prioritises and allocates funding to community and voluntary sector organisations to make sure that needs are met most effectively. We will take this forward with officers and members from Bristol City Council.

    To support work being undertaken by the LEP on minority businesses, a focus group has already been organized by ACH and the research team for October 27th. This focus group leads into a wider event with businesses and the LEP and its partners on the 14th of December to discuss the results of the research and work together on building a plan going forward. Further work is needed to ensure that refugee entrepreneurs receive the specific help and support needed.

    We need to identify more properties to offer housing for refugees and we will work with Bristol City Council and other stakeholders to bring this forward and integrate provision into new development.

    We are aware that other countries offer examples of international good practice in integrating refugees, including the Netherlands, Sweden and Canada. In the context of Brexit we need to ensure we continue to keep our networks open to new thinking.

    We will be making the Rethinking Refugee Conference an annual event. We can also organize mini Rethinking Refugee events in localities and communities of interest as needed. You can join in the conversation on Twitter using the hashtag:


    I myself came to the UK 20 years ago as a refugee. I am determined to make sure that we see refugees as an asset and not a liability and we have made good progress. But we can achieve so much more with the commitment and support of all stakeholders. Fuad Mahamed, CEO, Ashley Community Housing

  • Thank you Ashley Housing for an inspirational & encouraging evening. #rethinkingrefugee is a MUST! Josh Jones.

    Interesting conference this evening by Ashley Housing. Excellent discussion on promoting the benefits of #refugees #rethinkingrefugee. Citizens Advice Bristol.

    A pleasure to attend the #rethinkingrefugee workshop organised by Ashley Housing. Action needed to ensure refugees are assets for our city. Estella Tincknell, Deputy Mayor of Bristol.

    Thanks for a great#rethinkingrefugeeconference Ashley Housing.Lots of food for thought! Fab to see positivity towardsrefugeesinBristol. Superact UK.

    Though it was great taken from anonymous feedback form.

    Thought provoking insights from partners on hidden economic impact of migrant entrepreneurs at Ashley Housing #rethinkingrefugee conference. Adam Powell, Director of Skills, West of England LEP.

    At the #rethinkingrefugee conference run by Ashley Housing with the team from Borderlands, pretty great, positive ideas. Steve Owen, Borderlands.

    Incredibly informative #rethinkingrefugee conference from Ashley Housing tonight. Thanks for the invite! Borderlands.

    Excellent #rethinkingrefugee conference Ashley Housing. Time to change the narrative in refugees and asylum seekers. Councillor Asher Craig, St George West Ward, Bristol City Council.

    Interesting and informative conference by Ashley Housing, learning about refugee resettlement and discussing #rethinkingrefugee. Thank you! Bristol City of Sanctuary.

    Ashley Community Housing, Unit 20, Easton Business Centre, Felix Road, Easton, Bristol BS5 0HE 0117 954 0433

    What others said about the conference

    What do you say? Please let us know your views and how you might engage with our work to ensure far better integration of refugees within our city and region.

    Keep the conversation going and talk to us: