- A Working Paper for the Older Refugees Programme
- A Literature Review and Interviews with Refugees
- Older Refugees Programme
- Refugee Council, Age Concern England, Age Concern London and Association of Greater London Women
- Jan 2008
To examine what is known about older refugees' views, experiences and needs, what gaps exist in the knowledge and evidence base, and how these gaps are relevant to policy and practice and to highlight the issues and concerns that older refugees themselves have about their circumstances and daily lives in the UK.
First, a literature review was conducted covering academic literature, policy documents and grey literature specifically on older refugees, and also literature on older minority ethnic people, on refugees in general and women refugees in particular. Literature was accessed through library and internet searches, and through Refugee Council resource files including conference documentation, annual reports and leaflets. Secondly, refugee community interviewers conducted 20 semi-structured interviews with asylum seekers or refugees over the age of 50, ten of which resided in London at the time. The interviewees were from a range of nationalities, held different legal statuses and had been resident in the UK for between 16 months and 26 years.
The literature review found significant gaps in knowledge about the experiences, needs and perceptions of older refugees in the UK. These included a lack of accurate statistics kept on the overall asylum and refugee population and a lack of clarity over the respective roles of different stakeholders in service provision that has led to the needs of elderly refugees being largely unmet. The review also found examples of good practice for conducting research on refugees and the elderly, such as providing coherent follow-up with participants in terms of implementing findings and identifying the ways communities can benefit from research. The findings from the qualitative research are split into four sections: integration; support, health and housing; involvement in community groups; education and employment. In terms of integration, participants saw citizenship as central to being integrated and some felt a sense of belonging in the UK. Participants perceived barriers to integration as including poverty, lack of secure legal status and health and language difficulties. There was a feeling that a lack of appropriate services and support for elderly refugees generated a burden on their family and friends, with a particular lack of support identified for those caring for disabled dependants. Some participants reported that they had been provided with inappropriate accommodation, with lack of language skills and difficulties with procedures for claiming benefits seen as significant barriers to accessing services. Asylum seeker respondents had little involvement with community organisations; those who were involved, primarily with a more secure legal status, used these organisations for social activities and assistance with letter writing, completing forms and learning English. Participants identified a number of barriers to accessing education and employment such as language difficulties, poor health, perceived age discrimination and a lack of clear information, notably a lack of signposting to employment schemes such as Pathways to Work or the New Deal 50+. While many engaged in voluntary work and saw this as a way of ‘giving something back', there was confusion over asylum seekers' rights to engage in such work.
Elderly asylum seekers and refugees face significant difficulties in receiving appropriate services and support in the UK. For asylum seekers, anxiety over the progress of their asylum claim led to more instances of ill health and hardship than refugees. While problems are less frequent for those with more secure status, certain difficulties remain.
Service provision for elderly refugees must ensure flexibility and needs to pay attention to the diversity of findings found in this study. A number of areas were recommended for future research to improve knowledge of this. These include refugees' own perceptions of ageing, the impact of new immigration policies on elderly refugees, assessing the specific needs of elderly refugees in health, housing, education and employment, the provision of more appropriate information and the development of links and services within RCOs and refugee communities.
- Resource Type
- Working paper