Opinion: What can we do to help refugees here?

PUBLISHED: 08:00 30 June 2018


As everyone who lives or works in this borough knows, Newham has a very diverse population. It has one of the most diverse language profiles across London, the national census reporting that there were more than 100 languages spoken here.

A number of people born in other countries came here as refugees and asylum seekers and many will have experienced life threatening situations and some will have fled for fear of their lives.

The debate around refugees and asylum seekers usually revolves around how many we are “letting-in” to the country.

The success of Donald Trump in the US and the influence of UKIP on the Brexit referendum seems to have hardened public opinion towards this group. But I and my colleagues are asking a different question - should we be doing more to help them adjust to a new life?

We at the University of East London (UEL) certainly think so. The School of Psychology, in the College of Applied Health and Communities at UEL has been involved in trying to respond to this need.

This has included hosting a conference which launched two sets of guidelines relating to working with refugees and asylum seekers and working with interpreters in mental health.

Both were developed by members of the School of Psychology at UEL under the auspices of the British Psychological Society (BPS).

At the launch of the BPS guideline document last week Lord Alf Dubs (a Labour peer in the House of Lords) spoke about his own experience of coming to the UK as a child refugee and of his campaigning work on behalf of refugees including unaccompanied child refugees.

Refugee community groups were represented by several speakers and a number of psychologists from across the country also gave talks or ran workshops.

As another part of the university’s commitment to civic/community engagement, UEL has also set up a webportal on refugees, mental health and wellbeing, this can be accessed here

At UEL we are not asking “how many should we let in?”, but rather what more can we do to help those who are already here?

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