Charity offers English classes for refugees across London

Refugees are  waiting up to two years to start English lessons according to research, prompting a charity to provide classes in Hammersmith and Wandsworth. 

Refugees Welcome?, a report released by the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Refugees  last month, revealed that while Government-led resettlement programmes provide support, those arriving via an asylum claim are left to rely on charities.

Some are qualified professionals in their home country, but are unable to offer their skills, access support, or integrate into the community due to insufficient provision of ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) classes.

Dermot Bryers, CEO of London-based charity English for Action, said: “Without the English language it’s really difficult to take part in group activities that help people to make a positive change.

“Integration is not just about people arriving and learning the British way of life, it’s about people having the capacity to genuinely participate in their new communities.”

English for Action offers classes in Hammersmith, Wandsworth, and other areas of London, helping those who may be excluded from publicly-funded classes to rebuild their lives.

“We try to make our classes as accessible as possible – we welcome people from different backgrounds, different ages, people in or out of work, and we allow people to bring their children to our classes because that can be a real barrier,” he added.

The APPG and Refugee Action are calling on the next government to allocate more funding to ESOL classes and provide a strategy for ESOL objectives.

They want the government to recognise English language provision as an investment to unlock the potential that these people have to contribute to the UK both socially and economically.

Mariam Kemple Hardy, head of campaigns at Refugee Action, said: “Our research shows refugees are waiting up to two years to start lessons – this is a shocking waste of their talents.

“We’re calling on the next Government to commit funding to full and equal access to English lessons for all refugees in Britain.

“This isn’t a handout; it’s an investment in our country’s future.”

In 2016, the government announced £10 million funding for 12 hours of English language tuition per week for six months for Syrian refugees arriving through the Vulnerable Persons Relocation Scheme.

While this is a welcome recognition of the importance of learning English, the APPG and Refugee Action recommend that the same support is given to all refugees, regardless of how they arrived.

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