21st December 2022
Last Cocofe article.
Already 2 years have passed since our CoCoFe project started. Now we are at the end of this constructive journey made of new experiences, exchanges and inclusive learning activities.
As the project started in December 2020, we didn’t know most of the partners in the consortium yet and the situation was more than ever uncertain, with the second wave of COVID19 pandemic and new lockdown and restrictions imposed by European governments. Looking back at the first months of CoCoFe life-cycle, we must say now that the partnership successfully overcome the obstacles of the past years and achieved to develop valid tools meeting the language learning needs of female refugees and female forced migrants working in small scale manufacturing and retail environments.
To achieve this objective, the partners developed the following learning resources:
- A Course Companion Book in PDF version, including exercises and tips on language topics, such as greetings, humor, small talk, taking turns in conversation, etc.
- The CoCoFe e-learning platform, free of access and including all the contents of the Companion Book
- The Syllabus of the CoCoFe courses and indications about the teaching methodologies of the project.
- A Mini-dictionary including the main words and sentences included in the CoCoFe courses to support migrant women by providing them the key to fully understand the most important concepts.
In the second year of the project, the partners have been implementing these resources in their countries. In particular, they organised training courses with migrant women and local events to promote the project and its training materials. Thanks to their commitment, CoCoFe partners reached more than 100 people through the local events organised in France, the UK, Finland, Spain and Cyprus and involved about 100 women in their training activities.
At the end of this great project experience, all partners can rely on a new set of teaching resources for the migrant women they work with and on a long-lasting cooperation among new European partners.
06th December 2022
Hard road to Europe, harder life in France
Very often, the difficult situation experienced in France by migrant women adds trauma to migrant women who had been victims of violence during their journey to their host country.
According to the social workers of the Primo Levi Center, social services are not provided upon arrival in France for migrant women who are victims of sexual violence during their exile. This lack of care aggravates their trauma. At the same time, the French asylum system struggles to take into account what they have suffered during their migratory journey.
On the occasion of the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, Friday November 25, the association detailed in a report a trend it has observed for the past ten years: migrant women are increasingly embarking alone “on the brutal paths of exile”, and suffer a “continuum of violence”, in their country of origin, on the way to exile, and then upon arrival in France.
According to Maxime Guimberteau, head of communication and advocacy at the Primo-Levi Center, these women are affected by continuous violence that often starts in the country of origin with cases of torture, rape, marital violence, sexual mutilation and forced marriages. In the interview he gave to InfoMigrants, he affirmed that “currently, such violence during the journey is mentioned during the interview with the French Office for the Protection of Refugees and Stateless Persons (Ofpra), but it is not considered in the asylum application, i.e. it does not have any weight in the decision of Ofpra”. He added that “not to consider this violence is also to forget that these women are affected during the interview by what they have suffered. When they come before the French administration, they arrive loaded with trauma, which alters their ability to speak in front of the Ofpra agents. Psychologists tell us that one of the symptoms affecting victims of sexual violence is silence”.
Thus, migrant women experience a double trauma with an extremely negative impact on their integration in their host countries.
24th November 2022
Are immigrant women protected enough by the UK system?
Migration trends differ between males and women. These are a product of the gender stereotypes that permeate our society and to a certain extent, influence how men and women live their lives, pursue careers, take on caring duties and interact with one another and their families. Compared to men, women are more likely to be dependent on other immigrants. They move to the UK to start a new marriage, to follow settled or British citizens, or because they are the dependents of male asylum seekers, employees or students. Migrant women are, aside from other things, particularly vulnerable to exploitation in relationships, the labour market, private housing and other social contexts due to restrictions regarding who can work (in which jobs), the “no recourse” policy and hostile attitudes toward immigrants, which are initiated by strict and harsh rules from public authorities.
According to research, almost two-thirds of immigrants with family visas are women (“Migrant Women and Social Security,” 2020). In most cases, immigrants on family-related visas are permitted to work, but they are not eligible for public assistance and must pay an annual health fee in order to get secondary (i.e. hospital) care through the NHS. Moreover, only 19% of immigrant women are authorized to work in the UK, but immigrant women of all immigration statuses make a contribution to the labour force (“Migrant Women and Social Security,” 2020). The majority of government-funded childcare as well as most welfare and social housing are not available to immigrants with work visas and they must pay an annual health fee to obtain NHS secondary care. It is more difficult for women to understand their rights, seek support, or even navigate healthcare, utility bills or the job search due to language problems and lack of familiarity with the new scheme and more difficult for them to integrate and interact with the authorities in a system that purposefully seeks to create a “hostile environment.”
In full-time employment, the gender wage gap is essentially nonexistent for average immigrant women and men in the UK, although it differs dramatically for immigrants from different regions of the world (“Migrant Women and Social Security,” 2020). Overall, fewer immigrant women than were born in the UK work part-time, despite the fact that there are significant differences by country of birth. A disproportionate amount of migrant women work in low-wage and low-skilled industries like cleaning, domestic services and hospitality; 25% of workers in these industries are characterised by poor compensation, minimal prospects for career growth and hazardous working conditions like zero-hour contracts and self-employment (“Migrant Women and Social Security,” 2020).
Most visas issued by the immigration system come with the “no recourse to public money” (NRPF) stipulation. It implies that immigrants with restricted authorization to stay in the country will not have access to public resources, such as the majority of social security benefits, student loans, public housing, homelessness help and the majority of publicly financed childcare. If they have worked and contributed for a sufficient period of time, women with NRPF may be eligible for work-related benefits such as maternity allowance, sick pay or jobseeker’s allowance. However, since many women work in low-paying, precarious professions in the cleaning and care industries, where zero-hours contracts are common, they won’t be eligible for these. They lack any further support and have very few choices for making a life, as well as they risk becoming trapped in unwelcome and violent relationships. Many women who apply for asylum have experienced violence in some way in their home countries, during their travels, or even in the UK, but stigma and cultural barriers frequently prevent them from talking about it and getting help. The Destitution Domestic Violence Concession (DDVC) offers a few months of support and time for spouse visa holders who are victims of domestic abuse to apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain, yet many migrant women who are victims of domestic abuse are stuck.
Having all of this in consideration, we can safely say that there is a lot to be done by the UK system to help migrant women integrate better into society. Some of the recommendations that the report suggests for the UK system are to remove the restrictions on immigrant women’s ability to work as to lessen the financial hardship and vulnerability to exploitation experienced by asylum seekers and provide decent pregnancy and maternity care as well as essential medical services that will influence women’s and children’s health and well-being positively. Lastly, to protect and assist all women who are the victims of violence, they suggest that the DDV concession should be made available to migrant women with uncertain immigration status and help them adjust accordingly to the new environment and lessen the hardships of starting a new life far away from home.
Migrant women and social security. (2020). In Women’s Budget Group.
7th November 2022
Employability Hardships of Migrant Women in the UK
Immigration laws and public views have a massive impact on immigrants’ experiences and living circumstances in the UK, especially when it comes to immigrant women who are particularly vulnerable to exploitation in relationships, the labour market and other social contexts. This mainly happens due to restrictions on who can work (in which jobs), the “no recourse” policy and hostile attitudes toward immigrants which are usually fostered by public figures. According to some statistics, male immigrants are more likely to be employed (83%) than male UK citizens (79%). However, the opposite is true for women, with migrant women’s employment rates being lower (66%) than those of UK-born women (72%) (Migrant Women and the Economy, n.d.). This is the outcome of the various immigration routes that men and women take into the UK, the social and gender conventions of various groups, the economic difficulties outlined in this section and more.
Women who don’t speak English, who are from lower socioeconomic origins, with low levels of education or computer literacy and those from communities with very different cultural backgrounds from the UK may find it more difficult to adjust to their new environment. For many immigrant women, language is a significant barrier and poor English language abilities will make all other barriers, such as ignorance of the system and their rights and difficulty finding employment and social support all the more difficult to overcome. Reduced availability of ESOL sessions, stricter eligibility requirements and often increased attendance costs are all having an effect on integration of these women.
The benefits system’s digitization has made the language barrier a much bigger problem showing that it is more difficult for women who lack English proficiency, especially if they lack IT proficiency, as well. Working outside the home compels immigrants to socialise and converse frequently with others, making it one of the most efficient and effective ways to acquire a new language. Nevertheless, because they will spend much of their time at home taking care of their children or other family members, migrant women sometimes find it difficult to learn English as swiftly as men do. Later on, this will make it more difficult for them to find employment.
According to a study by the Wonder Foundation, there are significant practical obstacles for women trying to learn English (Carson et al., 2016). The price and venue of language classes are two of these. Women frequently don’t know if they qualify for funds for the courses due to the intricate nature of the benefits system and sometimes unaccredited courses are provided for free. The women’s current literacy level is a further barrier. One suggestion from the study was to make ESOL sessions places where women could meet people and gain confidence outside the home and in order to give women the confidence to do new activities, they urged the creation of “empowering spaces” or women-only spaces where they feel safe and welcome.The study also recommended that the women be given the opportunity to communicate with English-speaking natives, as doing so would help them become more fluent in the language and increase their chances of integrating.
Having in mind all of the difficulties that migrant women in the UK are facing, especially those relating to the language barrier, as a part of CoCoFe project we have developed a free Communication Skills course to help women increase their language proficiency and achieve a better chance for employability. The course consists of 10 lessons which cover various fields of communication including appropriateness of the language, formal and informal use of language terms, small talk, humour, body language, personal issues, interview preparation, etc. By going through these lessons, it is expected that migrant women will have a better understanding of the English language and its use in different situations they may encounter in both their personal and work life inside of the UK. Each lesson is accompanied with multiple activities, case studies and quizzes that will serve as an interesting and more engaging way of getting acquainted with the language and applying it correctly in different real-life scenarios.
We hope that by promoting our course and continuing to point to the hardships that migrant women go through, we will make a positive change on their lives, help them integrate themselves in any work or social context, and support them in leading a satisfying and fulfilling life, even outside of their home country.
To find out more about the e-learning course of CoCoFe project, visit this website.
- Carson, F., Stieding, S., Borgonha, A., Fraser, M., Kaddachi, A., Sapru, T., Mogul, P., Mohamed, E., Still, K., Dickerson, C. G., & Dolan, J. (2016, October 21). The real reasons why migrant and refugee women aren’t learning English in the UK | IPF. IPF | Empowering the Next Generation of Journalists.
- Migrant Women and the Economy. (n.d.).
30th October 2022
Language Integration in newcomers
Integration policies are considered an urgent issue to be discussed again in many countries as it is a social problem and taking into account that immigrants form a high percentage of the population it is necessary to work on their integration both socially and in the labour market to avoid triggering social and ethnic conflicts.
From the perspective of the receiving society there is a danger that migrants may be considered as “speechless”, because they are not able to use the language(s) of that country. However, migrants are just as able to communicate as other people, perhaps in different languages. Many migrants are able to use more than one language because they come from countries which are multilingual (such as African, Asian or the Balkan countries) or because in their process of migration they have had contacts with other languages. And because of their personal experiences of multilingualism many of them are much more aware of linguistic issues, of similarities or differences between languages and of the different communication contexts existing.
We can say that the link that immigrants create with the speech society of which they begin to form part and whose linguistic variety they adopt as their own, is very complex because they are influenced by the linguistic situation and the language policy of the countries of origin. Thus, we can say that linguistic habits and linguistic capital, attitudes towards the language and at least, towards learning it in the host society are determined by very different factors that cannot be related in a simple way.
The linguistic status of migrants and the effects of standardisation
- Heterogeneity – different learning/teaching contexts
Language programmes designed to encourage adult migrants’ second language acquisition must therefore meet the language needs of migrants and take into account their mental and psycho-social situation. It is obvious that learning a second language in a migration context differs considerably from any kind of traditional foreign language learning. Three points are highlighted here in order to show what this means for teaching and the designation of levels:
Firstly, language acquisition for migrants takes place not only via teaching but also simultaneously outside the classroom, to a different extent according to family, milieu and job situation. This is one reason why the language learning needs of migrants differ considerably between individuals. It is important to keep in mind that there is a colloquial language, which is the most important modality of a natural language in common communication situations and which is not always learned in the classroom. It is essential for survival, social contacts and professional success that one is able to at least understand the dialect(s) spoken outside the classroom.
Secondly, language learning takes place under much more (social, economical, legal) pressure than in regular classrooms. The type and amount of pressure differs for individuals and groups of migrants. However, depending on their legal status, the time they have already lived in the entry country is important. For this reason, language tuition that does not assist learners in communicating successfully in work, bureaucracy, institutions, health issues, educational contexts, social/cultural orientation will not be sufficient and effective. Here again the different situations of learners have to be taken into account when offering language tuition.
The third element with consequences for the organisation of teaching is the multilingual nature of the classrooms. Traditionally, foreign language teaching sees its pupils as a linguistically homogeneous group where it is possible to teach a new language against a common linguistic background, whereas with migrants the linguistic basis (one or more languages, not always learned properly, sometimes without literacy), the linguistic context (use of different languages in families and outside the classroom) and the motivation or pressure to learn the language differ to a large extent from foreign language learning contexts. Due to their migratory biography, many immigrant families have two or even three family languages, perhaps because one of their family languages was officially banned or because people from different linguistic areas have become members of one family. In most cases linguistic awareness, the ability to code-switch and the willingness to mix languages are even more developed. Therefore, language tutoring has to reflect the linguistic biographies and linguistic abilities of the learners in order to develop their learning abilities and not treat them as if they were inexperienced learners.
20th October 2022
Immigrant women in Spain and the language
In recent years, the increase in the foreign population in Spain has become one of the most important social phenomena. This increase in population has also been characterized by a growing “feminization”, not so much in terms of volume but in terms of the leading role assumed by women as initiators of the migratory chain. This growth of immigration in Spain is part of a context of increasing migration at the international level, but which has been much more accentuated in our country. Thus, the foreign population has come to account for 10% of the total population, with women representing 47% of the total population. Romanian, Ecuadorian, Moroccan, British, Colombian, Bolivian, German, Argentinean, Italian and Chinese, in that order, are the most numerous groups of origin.
Knowing the language and culture of a country is, in a way, a survival kit for those who want to start a new life. Language in its oral and written form allows us to understand, to interpret what we are told, to exchange ideas, to create bonds and, in short, to participate fully in society. On the other hand, people with low levels of literacy are, in many cases, destined to social exclusion. This is why participating in training programs in the language of the country is essential for successful integration.
They may face, among others, two obstacles to learning a language:
1. Not all countries provide institutional attention from the perspective of language teaching to the vulnerable population, leaving this training only in the hands of different NGOs or Social Services.
2. The existing digital gap, especially in this population, accentuates the lack of access to computers, poor connection to networks…In addition, covid-19 has aggravated the situation even more, because many of the materials used in the classroom cannot be shared.
In this context, educational mediation has been proposed as a paradigm change to improve the acceptance of otherness and avoid inequalities between social groups.
23th September 2022
Gender and migrant employment in Cyprus
The number of immigrants employed in Cyprus 2021 reached up to 180,344, corresponding to 28.8% of Cyprus’ total labour force, based on the Cyprus statistical service. Regarding the employment status, a total of 67.8% of immigrants were employed; 62% were women and 74.4% were men. Also, 64.4% were registered as unemployed; among these 64.4%, 5.4% were women and 7.7% were men.
Trimikliniotis and Demetriou wrote an article with reference to women migrants and their employability. In recent years, more literature can be observed on migrant labour and migration in Cyprus in reference to gender as well. Thus, it seems that the topic has increasingly begun to consider issues relating to the hierarchies in the labour market, gender differences in employment, discrimination and exploitation of various categories and social groups, geographical factors and gender specificities.
Generally, the position of women in the labour market, according to the legislative framework for gender equality reveals a serious gender gap, with women having a lower employment rate and lower salaries. Women are overrepresented in low-skilled jobs, and there are indicators that they fill a significant number of jobs in the clandestine (illegal) economy. The last category includes the large number of female migrant workers employed in what is called ‘’sex industry’’ as well as many migrants employed in the domestic sector; as domestic workers.
It can be noted that based on the article written by Trimikliniotis and Demetriou, with reference to other similar studies, the largest increase in employment was related to private households that employed domestic staff and was due to the continued increase of migrants employed as domestic workers.
As a concluding remark, it is noted that even if is an issue of public discourse or violation of employment/human rights of domestic workers or a general issue of belonging and participation of women migrants in civic life, the exclusion of migrant women from employment and racism targeting migrant women is an issue to worry about and raises its own particularities.
16th September 2022
A book that reflects the reality…
One of the books that grabbed my interest during my university years was the ‘’Crossing Borders and Shifting Boundaries: Vol. I: Gender on the Move’’.
The book presents men and women migrants on the move today exploring the modification of migratory patterns and consequences in different parts of the world. The historical continuities are highlighted in the book while showing how contemporary ways of bridging space and time are framed by new opportunities, or the lack of these opportunities, all related to the process of globalization. This framing is gendered as gendering migration flags the way for further intersectional analysis. The book presents the main topics of globalization and migration processes from a gendered perspective, where case studies on internal and international migratory processes are described. Also, the book makes an important contribution to the issue of empowerment and agency evolving from the experiences of migrant women.
Specifically, the chapter referring to ‘Skilled migrant women and citizenship’ reports the experiences of skilled migrant women in the labour market and how these are linked to issues of citizenship. The chapter presents two case studies of migrant women with a Turkish background, where the obstacles experienced in having their skills recognized in Britain and in Germany are encountered. While, the case studies presented, focus on how the interviewees, during their job interviews, managed to overcome such difficulties, the author examines the resources they mobilize to realize their skills and access a skilled labour market and thus highlight women’s agency.
The author concludes by stating that the categories of skilled and unskilled migrants are gendered constructions, and racist stereotypes contributing to the social construction of these categories. Thus, the same woman individual may be at different times in their migration history classified as an undocumented, unskilled or low skilled migrant. This categorization of migrant women often does not take account of their factual skills or professional experiences. Thus, the categories that are used to control migration and the access of migrants to the labour market should be deconstructed. Such conclusions are drawn by the author through a detail description of women migrants and their job interview processes.
Overall, the case studies show how the formation of women-migrant-categorization take place across a wide range of social relations, affecting areas of work and professionalization. As a conclusion, it is suggested that the inclusion of migrant women’s experiences can enhance the overall theoretical understanding of the gendered effects of citizenship.
Morokvašić, M., Morokvašić, M., Erel, U., & Shinozaki, K. (2003). Crossing Borders and Shifting Boundaries.
28th August 2022
Digitalising migrant integration services during the COVID-19 pandemic
EWSI (European Web Site on Integration) analysed the adaptation of migrant integration support services across EU countries during the COVID-19 pandemic, by examining whether existing services have been digitalised or not, whether new online services have been launched, and the barriers that third-country nationals encounter in accessing these digitalised services.
Some of the key findings of the analysis include:
- Before the COVID-19 outbreak, online services for third-country existed in 24 of 27 EU countries.
- The COVID-19 outbreak and ensuing restrictions led to the digitalisation of existing services, fully or partially, or development of new digital services for migrants in all 27 EU countries.
- Education services, particularly language training, social services and healthcare services were the most likely types of services to be moved online across all countries.
- 14 of 27 EU countries adapted healthcare services for online delivery to a limited extent, including through the online provision of COVID-19 prevention information – such as videos and tutorials – in languages relevant to migrant populations.
- Other civil-society-led initiatives were forced to close due to COVID-19-related funding cuts or were unable to provide beneficiaries with the technology they needed to access newly digitalised services.
- Digital access remains particularly difficult for recently arrived third-country nationals and other more vulnerable migrant groups. Key obstacles for accessing online support services include lack of internet connection, lack of technology, language barriers, lack of e-IDs, lack of digital skills, and lack of time and space at home.
- 13 EU countries have made public funding available for digitalisation since the COVID-19 outbreak.
- Promotion of digital inclusion is an important task in EU countries.
You can read more about the analysis on the European Commission website (source below).
8th August 2022
Launching the EU Skills profile for migrants and refugees
A concrete tool called the “EU Skills profile tool for third-country nationals” has been launched by DG EMPL in cooperation with DG HOME, after the adoption of the European Commission Action Plan on the integration of third-country nationals in June 2016. The tool will cover the whole of EU, and it will make it possible for non-EU nationals to present their skills, qualifications, and experiences in a coherent and clear way that employers and education providers and migrant organisations will understand.
The “EU Skills profile tool for migrants” consists of 4 sections:
1.-Personal information of the migrant/refugee concerned
2.-Expectations such as language learning, integration courses, finding a job or self-employment
3.-Skills identification: language skills, professional skills, digital skills, soft skills, etc
4.-Overall appraisal and recommended next steps (advised and completed by the education institution or employment agency concerned)
European Trade Union Committee for Education (ETUCE) considers the tool helpful for national/regional employment services, educational institutions and other actors to identify and assess skills and competences of migrants. However, the tool seems to identify skills relying only on the information provided by the migrant/refugee concerned without evidence or documents to support the evaluation and recognition of these skills and qualifications (e.g. relevant certificates). Therefore, it is not certain how employers and education institutions will use the information provided, and ETUCE emphasizes that this tool can only support migrants if it is effectively applied in practice.
11th July 2022
Migrant women in France and different sectors of activity
As the number of migrant women is increasing in our countries, it is becoming more and more important to study the profiles and needs of these women. Last year, the OECD published the 2021 edition of the Migration Outlook 2021 report, researching recent trends and developments in migration movements and in the inclusion of migrants in the labour world. In this report, the OECD shows that immigrant women are in the majority in several OECD countries: they represent 51.9% in France, 52.1% of immigrant residents in the United Kingdom, 52.4% in Canada, 51.3% in the United States and 53.7% in Italy. In contrast, in Germany and Sweden, they represent 49.4% and 49.6% of the immigrant population, respectively.
In France, these data show that an increasing number women are moving to there to live and that this trend is not going to stop any soon. However, not enough has been done so far to encourage employment and active life. Their activity rate remains lower than that of immigrant men. In 2020, the activity rate for the entire population was 54.5% (58.8% for men and 50.6% for women). While the activity rate for non-immigrant women is 51%, it drops to 47.7% for immigrant women.
Regarding the sectors of employment, in France 19% of immigrant women work in the human health and social action sector, compared to only 5% of immigrant men. They are less involved in other sectors, such as in transport, construction, agriculture or industry. However, like immigrant men, they represent 22% in accommodation, administrative work, catering and support services (compared to 9% of all French women). In addition, another important data is that 11% of immigrant women work as household employees.
Observing the trends, as they will spend more years learning French, working and living in France, migrant women may be employed in more rewarding jobs to work more frequently in human health, social work, public administration and education. According to the study, 14% of employment for immigrant women who have been in France for less than eight years, compared with 21% of employment for those who arrived more than 16 years ago.
Musée de l’histoire de l’immigration
24th June 2022
Understanding British Humour
One of the hallmarks of British humour is when and where they choose to joke. Britain doesn’t seem to have a huge concept of ‘time and place’, and typically their pessimism leads them to read humour into even the darkest of situations. It’s all right to laugh at a person’s bad grades and make fun of being in hospital or giggle at people falling over. Almost nothing is off-limits to Brits when they make jokes.
One of the hallmarks of British humour is when and where they choose to joke. Britain doesn’t seem to have a huge concept of ‘time and place’, and typically their pessimism leads them to read humour into even the darkest of situations. It’s all right to laugh at a person’s bad grades and make fun of being in hospital or giggle at people falling over. Almost nothing is off-limits to Brits when they make jokes.
So, if you are venturing to the UK for travel, study, or to get some experience, then watch out for these parts of British comedy. Stand in front of a mirror and practice your deadpan expression (appearing serious when the opposite is true), practice choosing to see the funny side and not taking yourself too seriously. Once you understand the humour, it’ll make slipping into UK life a breeze!
Sarcasm and Irony
A British person will often say the opposite of what they mean to make someone laugh. If it’s raining outside, for example, they’ll cheerfully point out: “What good weather we’re having!”. Staple British TV shows like Blackadder and Fawlty Towers are founded on this principle, and there are many “fake, satirical newspapers” and websites dedicated to presenting daily British life through a sarcastic and ironic lens.
.Everyday life jokes
Brits appreciate the funny side of everyday life. They can turn normal, mundane situations into a joke. “Stand up” comedians like Jimmy Carr are experts at this kind of humour. They take everyday activities and make them funny using wordplay or irony. There are also modern several British TV series, like ‘Outnumbered’, where there is a lack of “action or drama” and the focus is on the norms of everyday life; here the human is subtle but easily relatable, because you connect with what is happening. The characters are like people who you encounter every day, doing funny, stupid or embarrassing things. Part of the power of this humour lies in the delivery of the comedian or character. It is often said in a deadpan style, with a lack of emotion. This contrasts with the absurdness of what has just been said. It may be blunt, ironic or seem completely unplanned, which makes it all the funnier.
Banter & teasing
You will see this in action in the workplace and in social situations like at the pub, when friends get together. It can be a difficult type of humour to decode and it particularly relies on private “inside” jokes, usually references to previous conversations, cultural contexts or a play on words. To get some sense of how it works, look at the characters Smithy & Gavin in the comedy ‘Gavin & Stacey’, or the interaction between the 2 male characters Mark & Jez in ‘Peep Show’.
10th June 2022
Mr. Bean: “British humour and its influence on communicative competences for migrant women”
Mr. Bean is a British comedy sketch which first aired in 1990. Starred and written by the actor Rowan Atkinson, the series follows a hilarious middle-aged man, called Mr. Bean, who tries to solve problems to everyday, mundane tasks. The humour element arises from the unconventional manner in which he chooses to carry out these quotidian activities, which is highly emphasised by his physical actions, body language and facial expressions as he is predominantly a muted character (Pelplinksi, 2015).
This comedy series can easily resonate with many people, be that native and non-native English speaker, because he is a muted character (Wood, 2015). As a result, much of the humour can be transmitted universally. However, Cybreco (2021) highlights that Mr Bean does not corroborate well with that of media genre analysis; even the introduction is meant to depict him as an alien and thus be isolated from society. Nevertheless, it is these exact challenges that Mr. Bean faces that resonate with migrant integration. Migrants, due to language barriers amongst other factors, may struggle to integrate. These struggles result in everyday-tasks becoming arduous and challenging; a situation that Mr. Bean finds himself in but depicted in a satirised manner. A further similarity between migrants and Mr Bean is the possible language barrier. Mr. Bean hardly talks and thus his personality resonates as an individual who is not able to fully express himself and thus lead to various humorous acts. Equally, women refugees can relate to Mr. Bean as they too may find their daily routine impeded by miscommunication (Simcox, 2021). While not intentionally mocking their misfortunes, Mr. Bean has the possibility to bestow confidence in female refugees in demonstrating that they are far from an isolated case, as many migrants struggle to gain a foothold in society.
Furthermore, in terms of communicative processes for migrant women, British humour can be seen as a very intrusive and offensive for some cultures. This may be even further accentuated for certain refugees who are not permitted to express themselves fully due to religious or cultural attitude constraints. Consequently, British humour can emit very awkward and disturbing situations (English with Lucy, 2019). However, Mr. Bean, being predominantly silent, aids the viewer to comprehend the core elements of British humour, being irony, self-deprecation and innuendos, with mitigating the harsh tones and dialects that can seem distasteful to non-English speakers. Bradford (2022), emphasises that watching Mr. Bean subconsciously allows one to greatly interpret British humour in a manner that is not offensive and improve their English language skills while simultaneously laughing at the comical sketches. In fact, Atkinson wanted to make sure that all episodes of Mr. Bean could be viewed and understood without any translations.
In conclusion, while Mr. Bean may be portrayed as a simplistic comedy sketch, it is its simplicity that makes it inviting for a universal audience. The character, albeit mocked and ridiculed for comical actions, gains the compassion and affection from refugee communities as the sketched portray their parallel struggles in a comical way that related to them rather than being targeted at them. Additionally, Mr. Bean acts as a “stepping stone” for refugees to understand the aspects of British humour while steering away from the direct and possible offensive nature of its origin. Therefore, the series is depicted as light-hearted while deep down evoking the elements of British humour as to gain a better comprehension of the English language that is prominent in a work environment.
- Bradford, T. (2022), Fall in love with British humour with Mr. Bean. Tamas Bradford Teaching [online]. Available at: https://learnenglishwithtommy.com/fall-in-love-with-british-humour-with-mr-bean/ (Accessed: 6/6/22).
- Cybreco, R. (2021). The Importance of Bean: A Philosophical Analysis of “Mr. Bean”. Medium [online]. Available at: https://cybreco.medium.com/the-importance-of-bean-a-philosophical-analysis-of-mr-bean-b7f6918061b2 (Accessed: 3/6/22).
- English with Lucy (2019), British Humour Explained (with examples). Youtube [online]. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LNFw1XcRu_E&t=1s (Accessed:
- Pelplinski, J. (2015). About Mr. Bean. British Comedy Guide [online]. Available at: https://www.comedy.co.uk/tv/mr_bean/about/ (Accessed: 3/6/22).
- Simcox, G. (2021). “The weight of responsibility is not pleasant”: Rowan Atkinson finds Mr Bean “stressful and exhausting: and hints he will never play role again.
- Wood, J. (2015), 15 Fun Facts about Mr.Bean. Mental Floss [online]. Available at: https://www.mentalfloss.com/article/62455/15-things-you-might-not-know-about-mr-bean (Accessed: 3/6/22).
24th May 2022
The importance of how and with whom we communicate
More than half of the migratory movements that take place globally are carried out by women; however, the image that is built of immigrants continues to be generally masculine. This is largely due to the influence of those of communication, in the construction of said image; which also influences the perception we have of the nationality of immigrants from each country.
If we look at the countries of origin of immigration in Spain, for example, we can see that in recent decades they have changed very significantly: while in 1998 the three dominant nationalities were Moroccan (190,497), French (143,023) and the German (115,395); in 2011 there was an important change, with the three main foreign nationalities being Romanian (809,409), Moroccan (766,187) and Ecuadorian (478,894). By 2021, the three main foreign nationalities would be Moroccan (775,936), Romanian (658,773) and British (313,984).
This brings us to one of the most important aspects when dealing with immigrants: communication. At a governmental and social level, it is necessary to establish communication channels that are correctly adapted to the context in question (wars, famine, search for a better life, human trafficking, etc.), gender and nationality -among other issues- since it is crucial to adapt to the needs that the immigrant may present. For example, the way you interact, both verbally and physically, with people from different cultures often requires paying attention to certain nuances; nuances that increase in case of dealing with people who may have conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Likewise, the situation is very different if we deal with immigrants who come to our country from countries with a similar culture and standard of living; so we have to communicate effectively with people from other cultures.
For this reason, we must work on the development of effective communication as a tool for inclusion at a social level, developing ways of mutual exchange that allow us to be able to interact with all kinds of people.
3rd May 2022
When escape from war also carries risk
Various humanitarian organizations warn of the risk of Ukrainian refugee women being captured by trafficking networks for sexual exploitation; a problem that has been increasing with the outbreak of the armed conflict.
The International Organization for Migration (IOM), which is part of the United Nations (UN), identified and assisted just over 1,000 Ukrainian victims of trafficking in 2021. After the Russian invasion, this organization warned that people who escape from the country, especially women, are at increased risk of being trafficked. Thus, the trafficking of Ukrainian women worries organizations such as the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), which points out that “they need protection against gender-based violence, abuse and sexual exploitation.”
Trafficking rings are notoriously active in Ukraine and neighbouring countries in peace time. The fog of war is perfect cover to increase business.
Karolina Wierzbińska, a coordinator at Homo Faber, a human rights organisation based in Lublin, highlighted that children were a huge concern.
“Many youngsters were travelling out of Ukraine unaccompanied. Patchy registration processes in Poland and other border regions – especially at the start of the war – meant children disappeared, their current whereabouts unknown”.
On the other hand, the president of the Generalitat of Catalonia, Pere Aragonès, and the Minister for Equality and Feminism Tània Verge met with representatives of the Red Cross in Catalonia, which since the beginning of the war have cared for 13,642 people from Ukraine. After this meeting, the Government warned of cases of attempted trafficking of Ukrainian refugees in the community, as pointed out by, Tània Verge, at a ceremony held at the Red Cross headquarters in Barcelona.
18th April 2022
Art expression-the way forward!
Refugees and migrant women fleeing a country, arrive to a host community and daily fight for their survival in a constant effort to rebuild their lives. Migrant and refugee women are desperately searching for employment in order to be able to receive an earning and have the possibility to live under better conditions in the host country. Well educated women, with skills and knowledge tend to accept any job offered. As a result, their skills and knowledge are not valued by the host community and are often seen and treated as the underdeveloped, marginalised ones in the host society. This results into an overall compromisation of these women in order to be given the chance to be involved and participate in the labour market that offers limited job-choices to these women only from the fact that they are labelled as ‘migrants/refugees’. Therefore, skilled or low-skilled women, educated or low-educated women do not have any other choice, rather than accepting any kind of job offered.
Their dreams, ideas, passions and desires, in combination with all kinds of skills, knowledge and experience are marginalised and are only seen, understood and treated as the subordinate ‘other’. Therefore, for a lot of women decent work is a distant dream, as they are marginalized; poorly paid, poorly protected, no sign-contracts, experience abuse, sexual harassment etc., as the Policy Brief of ILO also identifies [Education, training and skills: Women migrant workers in ASEAN].
This overall alienation of migrant and refugee women causes negative perceptions of migrant and refugee women to be developed. Interestingly, a study of 2018 has explored the experiences of migrant and refugee women (in regional Australia), while sharing these experiences through community art exhibitions. Through art and drawing, women got to share their stories, experiences, learn about each other as well as teach other women new skills. Also, women drawing on existing skills, learning new ones, and gaining confidence, encouraged them to explore another route within the labour sector by selling their work in various local markets and pop-up shops. For example, one woman became known in the broader community for her excellent dressing skills and managed to set up her own business. Such initiatives give opportunity and hope to women and present a way forward for migrant and refugee women who had previously been denied employment opportunities.
Such practices make migrant and refugee women visible, through a celebration of culture, allow acceptance, inclusion and overall highlight their individual stories, skills, knowledge and dreams through expressive art. Art can create a meaningful and personal encounter with people from different countries and people from the host country, promote empathy and prompt social action for inclusion. Art can be used to bridge communities and enable successful settlement and inclusion. Most importantly, it is a means that can allow a variation of skills from migrant women and refugees to thrive in a community and the employment sector, while changing the negative perceptions about migrant and refugee women.
Give migrant and refugee women a chance-let the art speak-let migrant and refugee women show their skills and knowledge to the world-expand the participation of migrant and refugee women to the labour sector!
11st April 2022
Female Domestic Workers in Cyprus; ‘she’ the domestic worker
Most of the migrant domestic workers living and working in Cyprus are women with the ultimate goal and wish to improve the living standards of them and their families.
A report published by UCLan University in Cyprus refers on the status of foreign domestic workers in Cyprus. The author of this report, Nasia Hadjigeorgiou, Assistant Professor in Transitional Justice and Human Rights, UCLan Cyprus, has identified and presented a range of factors that come together and compound the vulnerability of these women. These factors are: their race, great financial need, migrant status, doing essential work but being low-paid, working alone that impacts their socialisation as well as being working more than what their contracts states, without being paid extra.
Overall, the report emphasises on the human rights of these women with very detailed data collection being focused on the overall labour exploitation of these women.
The main factor of being vulnerable is their gender; Their gender, with combination of the factors already identified, further increase the feeling of fear and tendency of not trusting the authorities as they are worried of losing their jobs and damage their legal or employment status in the country. All these factors and the fact that they are women, force these women to remain in the margins of the host society.
On the other hand, exceptions can also be identified as not all migrant and refugee women in Cyprus are domestic workers. The example that UNHCR Cyprus published talks about Luna, a Syrian refugee who forcibly fled her country and managed to finish her studies, enrolled at a mentorship programme for women’s empowerment. Luna is now a working mom, running her own YouTube project channel as well as being a volunteer. Luna, as a woman refugee living in Cyprus, is an example that breaks the stereotypes around the work migrant women in Cyprus ‘should’ be doing. Unfortunately, Luna remains the minority in Cyprus while leaving a sparkle of hope for breaking the stereotypes around women migrants and refugees.
21st March 2022
More than 40 percent of migrant women in Finland are highly educated
According to the labour market association STTK, more than 40 % of migrant women in Finland have a higher education degree, but only half of them are involved in working life. This means that they could be a great resource in the employment market, and it would be useful to connect integration activities better with employment.
Integration training could be more directly connected to jobs and any internship periods should be much longer, as currently they are very short, states Marisel Soto Godoy from Monika integration centre. Migrant women are also directed towards female-centered jobs, such as the field of healthcare and social affairs. Raising a family also poses a challenge on the employment of migrant women – the employment rates for migrant women without children are significantly higher. Many Finnish women have an existing job that they go back to after having a child, whereas migrant women may not have this option and finding a job when the children are older is much harder.
There are many fields in the Finnish job market suffering from labour shortage, and it seems strange that in the meanwhile it seems difficult for migrant women to find employment. According to Soto Godoy, this should be rectified and migrant women’s competence should be recognised and utilised in the Finnish labour market.
11st March 2022
How can leisure activities enhance the integration of refugee and asylum-seekers?
A study published by Bournemouth University examines how leisure and physical activity, such as dance and music-making, may play a significant part in the lives of asylum seekers. According to Dr Nicola De Martini Ugolotti:
“Forced migrants are often marginalised and considered to be a problem that needs to be solved or managed, or to be objects of charitable interventions at best. They can be viewed as a threat or as traumatised victims. One of the implications of this which has been highlighted by my research is that to be a refugee means to be stuck in this label where you are just a victim, or a ‘bogus’ refugee, and it’s very hard to escape from those labels.”
Dr. De Martini Ugolotti observed that as a result of the study, participants began to form their own leisure clubs. Despite challenges such as money and venue availability, these projects demonstrate the dedication and perseverance of some of the group members in preserving spaces, moments, and traditions that were important in their aspirations to make Bristol and Britain their home. Dr. De Martini Ugolotti continues to work with them and the project’s charities to assist and sustain these organizations.
Similarly, another researcher at the University of Sheffield noted that refugees who lack resources and are suffering the effects of traumatic events, an affordable and accessible space for leisure can be extremely beneficial to their well-being. The use of such areas for relaxation and recreation, as well as for exercise, socialization, and play, can help refugees strengthen their bonds with their host communities and get a better spatial awareness of the cities in which they live.
28th February 2022
Oral and written expression: an additional obstacle on the road to employment for migrants
When you are looking for a job in France, one of the determining criteria for standing out from the applicants is the ability to express yourself both orally and in writing. Once the language has been learned, migrants who come to France must also face an additional difficulty: the complexity of its spelling. Indeed, unlike most Latin languages (Spanish, Italian, Romanian), French is not a phonetic language. In other words, this means that knowing how a word is pronounced in French does not mean knowing how it is written. The spelling which was, in effect, designed by the bourgeoisie in the XIXᵉ century has thus been made intentionally difficult and the French themselves sometimes suffer from its complexity, as it is used as a tool for social selection. As a matter of fact, an Ipsos survey of 2,500 employers has shown that 80% of recruiters are ready to reject a candidate if he or she makes spelling mistakes in his/her resume or cover letter. This is an additional obstacle for migrants looking for skilled work. For someone who has not been educated in the French system, it takes extra time and investment to learn how to spell. This form of exclusion is combined with other obstacles on the path to employment: discrimination by name, address, skin colour or stigma associated with a nationality. In addition to spelling, a strong accent in the pronunciation of French can also be perceived negatively and it is not uncommon for a migrant to be subjected to jokes that reduce him to the status of a non-native. The ideas he expresses in correct French may therefore be taken less seriously by his superiors only because he conveys them with a strong accent. The language barrier can thus affect a migrant throughout his professional career, even if he makes all possible efforts to integrate. The intersectionality of social phenomena should therefore not be overlooked when analysing migrants’ difficulties in finding a job. Language training is necessary, but it must also be complemented by a deeper reflection on our own social mechanisms regarding the criteria to be applied in case of recruitment or promotion.
24th February 2022
Coexist where they don’t want you
The growing arrival of immigrants poses new challenges to the society we know. It is undeniable that immigration contributes to the culture of a country, turning it into a melting pot of traditions, languages and customs. Those who arrive, provided with work contracts or, in the worst cases, in inhuman conditions and without proper documentation, come from different countries and belong to very diverse cultures or ethnic groups, sometimes with customs extremely distant from those of the receiving country.
If viewed with perspective, it can be seen that immigration policies on the European continent have gone through various stages. During the 1970s, those States that needed immigrant recruitment made policies prone to their arrival. However, after the economic crisis of 1973, the countries that until then had favoured labour immigration changed their approach and tried to stop it with restrictive laws that made the regular entry of workers enormously difficult. In this way, the possibilities of hiring and entry legal of labour immigrants become truly reduced, which in many cases leaves them the irregular route as the only feasible option of entry, with the consequent situation of vulnerability and exploitation for them.
In this situation of irregularity, the hardships suffered by immigrant women, who end up entering Europe, prey to human trafficking, stand out. According to data collected by the Council of Europe, it warns that, between 2015 and 2018, the increase in victims of trafficking grew by 44% with 15,310 victims in 2018, compared to 10,598 in the previous 3 years.
10th February 2022
Refugee employability and mental health
Studies have shown that there is clear positive correlation between refugee employability and mental health. More specifically, according to a study published by Walden University, refugees tend to suffer more severe symptoms of Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) if they are unemployed. While unemployment in itself poses a high risk-factor for mental health issues, the studied showed that the PTSD and MDD rates of 483 unemployed Cambodian refugees were significantly higher while at the same time Muslim refugees residing in the Netherlands showcased high levels of psychological distress when unemployed.
To overcome the aforementioned issues, a report published by the Directorate-General for Internal Policies of the European Union, suggested that it is important to invest in the training and education of female refugees since access to education and training is crucial for refugee and asylum-seeking women’s integration and resilience to stress and trauma. At the same time, access to education and training will also increase chances of employability and as a result will decrease the symptoms of PTSD and MDD as stated above. Furthermore, involving refugee women in trainings can limit isolation and increase involvement in local daily life, thus restoring a sense of normality and increasing self-esteem.
Based on the above, it is important for countries with high numbers of refugee and migrant populations to consider implementation of policies that aim at improving the mental health for refugee women and promoting their integration. For example, promoting community service programs to increase awareness of mental health and education and training opportunities would significantly address the issues mentioned above.
Employability for Refugees in the UK
- Where are the barriers and how do help?
The right to work is one of our basic human rights, having been enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Therefore, everybody is entitled to engage in productive employment and the barriers to working should be removed.
This is especially important for refugees, who have been subject to unimaginable horrors on their journey to safety in the UK and often rely on access to health services to rebuild their lives. However, currently, there is a clear disparity between employment rates for refugees (51% employed) and natives (73% employed) with refugees earning less and working fewer hours than UK-born workers.
- Why are Refugees struggling to attain employment?
A refugee, like many individuals in the UK, must find employment in order to afford a decent standard of living. However, in addition to the employment troubles the UK is currently facing, refugees have added difficulties in finding jobs. One of the main sources of this struggle to find employment is a lack of language proficiency, in comparison to native speakers. One of the predominant qualifications sought after by employers is the ability for an individual to master the English language. However, gaining proficiency in the English language takes years of practising and schooling. Unfortunately, for refugees, this is often not an option in their home country and so when they arrive in the UK they are unequipped to meet the expectations of the job market and as a result, are disadvantaged relative to native job seekers.
An additional factor that can create barriers to employment for refugees is discrimination and prejudice. Refugees escape their place of birth in the hope of evading discrimination. Regrettably, refugees often encounter discrimination in the new country where they have sought refuge. This discrimination may influence the likelihood of attaining employment, leaving refugees unemployed and without the tools to be integrated within local communities, as a result of their aforementioned unfamiliarity with the English language.
- What can be done to transition refugees into employment?
Government policymakers should aim to provide refugees with highly effective but manageable language training, that meets the needs of the labour market. For example, language training should focus initially on workplace needs, with potential government-funded programmes combining on-site language classes and on-the-job training.
Digital technologies can also be a significant help, providing online training modules on issues of interview etiquette and understanding the culture of employment in the UK, as to educate refugees on how to find and keep a job, and what to expect in the UK workplace.
Refugees often lack information about job opportunities, while employers are often unaware of refugees’ potential. While ethnic networks, NGOs and employment services can help match refugees to jobs, temporary employment agencies and technology platforms such as LinkedIn are also very useful tools in the job matchmaking process. These services should be made available to all refugees in order to reduce the barriers to employment, as well governmental bodies encouraging and incentivising the hiring of refugees for companies in order to create new employment hiring norms, which in the long-term will increase the employability of all refugees.
Jamil, H. Kanno, S. Arnetz, B. (2015). Promoters and barriers to work: a comparative study of refugees versus immigrants. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4347467
Legrain, P. (2017). How to Get Refugees into Work Quickly. Tent Step Up. https://www.opennetwork.net/wp-content/uploads/2017/08/TENT_StepUp_FINAL.pdf
14th January 2022
Causes in Brief of Low Communication Competence among Migrant Women
As recognised by previous articles of CoCoFe project, the disadvantages incurred due to low proficiency in English are complex and numerous. Simultaneously, it is obvious that language-learning inabilities of migrants is not an uncommon issue. Why, then, do we not find in migrants a greater degree of communicative competence? Well, we’ve studied the effects of linguistic (English) shortcomings so, in a rather backwards manner, here are (some of) the causes.
Naturally, there is the usual spate of factors, ranging from economic vulnerability, racism/xenophobia, low experience or lack of qualification recognition in the host country – all factors we’ve examined before. For female migrants in particular, these factors are often exacerbated by the nature of female migration practices in relation to their male counterparts. While there exists not an insignificant diversity in the proportion of male to female migrants entering the country for work, there is, however, a disparity in gender (a great deal more women) for those migrants entering as a part of family reunification policies. Hence, it is important to account for factors affecting migrant women in particular and especially those migrant women who have cumbersome familial requirements.
While I’m sure most migrants would leap at the opportunity to better dedicate their time in a financially, temporally and socially secure fashion to learning English to a sufficient level of experience, for most it is not that simple. For migrant women, it is all the more important that any programmes hoping to rectify their linguistic capabilities account for their other commitments, both in providing for flexible timings and flexible accessibility requirements. Indeed, research has indicated that the main reason for the failure of policies attempting to address this issue has been exactly that – a lack of flexibility. Building off this knowledge, the success of future programmes is undeniably more hopeful.
5th January 2022
Migrant women under covid-19
As a general rule, those situations which engender a certain level of harm or introduce a scenario in which a specific group is made to endure exceptional hardship, then providing women are a subsection of that group, it can be confidently assuaged that those women will be disproportionately affected. Owing to the extant variance between men and women’s lives, commonly manifesting as differences in gender norms, employment trajectories, caring responsibilities, and role in the family, programmes which exact further difficulties only serve to exacerbate the obstacles faced by women to a greater degree. This brings us to the circumstances under which UK migrants find themselves in the ongoing pandemic.
First off, sectors in which the largest proportion of migrant women are employed have been found to be most impacted by lockdown-related measures instituted in the face of covid-19 – sectors like cleaning, domestic work, hospitality, and childcare. Especially given the precarious state of employment already experienced by a disproportionate fraction of migrant women, expressed in zero-hours contracts, positions with low pay and working hours, self-employment, etc., even those lockdown measures intended to alleviate widespread unemployment have failed to provide relief.
As if sudden, unexpected employment wasn’t enough to endanger their stability, many migrants’ visas and, additionally, their independence, find work necessary to their continued, comfortable existence. Deemed in breach of article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights, the UK policy, ‘no recourse to public funds’ (NRPF), permits denial of basic services, including financial and medical services like Universal Credit or the NHS to those migrants found ‘undeserving’ (unemployed). Unsurprisingly, then, migrant women left unemployed face further repercussions which inevitably spell their doom. This is all the more pertinent considering the case of undocumented female migrants (whether already vulnerable and refused asylum, trafficked, or under other forms of labour or sexual exploitation), who are often in greater need of such services to enable their escape.
Regarding those factors mentioned earlier, which present a situation for women that is significantly different to that faced by men, women migrants are more likely than their male counterparts to be dependents of other immigrants. What this means for their legal status is that in order to continue living in the UK, they are forced to remain in that relationship. Combined with other influences that make women more susceptible to relational abuse than men means migrant women are all-too-often overlooked by policies which restrict migrants’ legal recourse and employment/residential stability. On the flip side, if a woman migrant chooses not to face destitution due to leaving a relationship, they are made more vulnerable to coercion, abuse, control, or physical violence, each of which are issues in and of themselves without being compounded by the UK’s shambles of a migration system.
It is evident that the UK’s migration system is poorly conceived; none are more aware of this than migrant women. It is vitally important for programmes to be introduced which address the intersection of both migrant and woman, and the sooner the better.
12th December 2021
Remote work as an employment possibility to help refugees
Remote working has become more and more common during the Covid-19 pandemic, and many companies who previously resisted remote work possibility have now been driven to support remote work. The wider availability for remote work opportunities could also support refugees. It would give them an opportunity to gain financial independence, as they would have more opportunities and the lack of available jobs in their host region would not pose an issue. For example, an article on the Newlines Institute website, states that “increasing remote work opportunities addresses not only refugee livelihoods but also the significant talent gap experienced by many U.S. companies”, which not competing directly with the local population. They suggest that cooperation between different actors, in the public and private sector – governments, the UN, NGOs, training providers, and the private sector – is necessary for refugees to be able to benefit from remote work possibilities (1). This model can also be applied to many European countries.
However, legal employment status of refugees could be an issue, and it is important to have appropriate legal frameworks for such work, in order to guarantee adequate legal protection for refugees working remotely (1).
There are already initiatives by some private and public entities to facilitate remote work for refugees – for example Remote, a global payroll, tax, and compliance company has established a Remote for Refugees initiative. The program offers free global employment for all refugees currently living in countries where they have an entity, making it easy and cost-effective for businesses to invest in refugee talent.
Remote work industries can include technology, translations, education, administration, finance, marketing and different areas of research, among others (3). With the appropriate training opportunities for refugees and a legal framework focusing on the issue, remote work could become a viable option for many refugees regardless of their host country, helping them gain independence and enter into working life.
- Charles, L. 2021, Giving Refugees Employment Opportunities Through Remote Work. https://newlinesinstitute.org/refugees-and-forced-displacement/giving-refugees-employment-opportunities-through-remote-work/
- Molina, G. 2021, Remote Announces New Program to Give Refugees Remote Work Opportunities. https://thinkremote.com/remote-for-refugees-program/
- Charles, L. 2021, How remote work could help refugees. https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2017/11/remote-work-could-help-refugees/
24th November 2021
THE BARRIERS FOR THE INTEGRATION OF REFUGEE AND FORCED MIGRANT WOMEN IN SPAIN
The discrimination and exclusion suffered by refugees and forced migrants is multiplied and more grievous in the case of women for the mere fact of being women.
By being women, female refugees are at greater risk of danger and discrimination than male refugees. It’s because of this that many of them find themselves in situations of violence, human trafficking and arranged marriages. In fact, according to UNHCR reports for the last year, this is true for half of the 82,4 million displaced people in the world. However, not enough resources are allocated for addressing the specific needs and circumstances of women and girls. In addition to this reality, women stand worse chances in the fields of healthcare access, employment and access to legal residence permits.
Furthermore, with the outbreak of the global pandemic, the inclusion process of migrant people, and more specifically that of the refugees and asylum seekers has been greatly disrupted, and continues to worsen as the pandemic extends.
While it is true that Spain has tried to adapt to the new needs and to act swiftly, these have been hastily designed measures where everything had to be built from the scratch. In this regard, some actions such as the extension of residence permits or the moratorium on the expiration dates of administrative documents deserve to be highlighted. But in spite of this examples good practices the emergency situation has affected and made more difficult their conditions, in comparison with the general population, in terms of employability, access to housing and coverage of basic needs, as well as the psychosocial care this population needs. The social and technological isolation further complicates their situation, widening the digital gap, especially for women.
It is worth mentioning the elaboration of the Strategic Plan for 2022-2015 by the UN Women who seeks to reach the Sustainable Development Goals before 2030. On it, it establishes measures like the mobilisation of an urgent and sustained action towards gender equality and women and girls empowerment. When assessing the implementation of these measures, we should analyse how the contribute to fight the challenges and difficulties migrant and refugee women face, which are:
- Access to social and safety services, since women face greater discrimination, sexual violence and gender discrimination.
- Access to information, registers and citizenship. They usually encounter greater obstacles when dealing with asylum and citizenship applications.
- Access to economic opportunities. Refugee and forced migrant women start off from a disadvantaged situation in terms of education and job opportunities.
16th November 2021
In 2018, according to a report by the Council of Europe, women represented 51.8% of new entrants to France, yet they seem invisible in the media.
However, according to Margaux Bornet and Léonie Samel, directors of the documentary La France en vrai (The Real France), they remain in the background for cultural reasons sometimes, and for security reasons mainly. For this reason, they decided to shoot this video documentary about mothers in exile exploring topics related to the reconciliation of exile and motherhood.
According to the guidelines issued by the Council of Europe in a report entitled “Protecting the Rights of Migrant, Refugee and Asylum Seeking Women and Girls”: Many women and girls have been and are victims of severe forms of gender-based violence in accommodation, reception and detention facilities across Europe. Gender-sensitive measures to address this violence, including gender-sensitive policing, shelters, counselling, and prevention programs are sorely lacking. There is also a lack of sanitation facilities, gender-segregated spaces, and safe places. In 2017, the association GSF (Gynaecology without Borders) revealed in “le journal des femmes” that 70% of migrant women had experienced violence, moral, physical or sexual. GSF is a non-governmental organisation whose aim is to help women in precarious situations throughout the world where their development, dignity and health are neglected, threatened or denied.
CADAs (Reception Centres for Asylum Seekers) offer asylum seekers a place to stay while their application for refugee status is being studied. This reception includes accommodation, as well as administrative support (assistance with the asylum application procedure), social support (access to healthcare, schooling for children, etc.) and financial assistance with food. CADAs are generally managed by associations or companies. There are more than 300 CADAs in France, including 22 in the Calais region.
It’s time to bring women’s and mothers’ rights at the front of the migrants’ aid actions, as they are together with their children the most vulnerable and yet the less cared protagonists in the migration crisis.
25th October 2021
The Cascading Effects of Poor English Comprehension for Migrants in the UK
Shifting focus now from last week’s article and examining the state of migrant women in the UK, we can nevertheless see a great many similarities (between the UK, Ireland, and the rest of the EU). Once again, we see the status of migrant women overlooked by broader policies which choose to focus instead on migrants in general. This factor only proves more evident for refugee women, themselves tending to be in a more vulnerable position for obvious reasons. Moreover, due to the UK’s policy of ‘mandatory dispersal’, even those refugee women who might have succeeded in acquiring a foothold in accessing labour, education, or healthcare will regularly find their progress disrupted. This severely impacts refugee women in particular and simply makes it all the harder to integrate and achieve the levels of support they need.
When it comes to employment, one common aspect of migrant womanhood in the UK is that this group has lower paid jobs, less stable jobs and jobs of a worse quality (which can involve several factors, such as few hours, irregular pay, dangerous or unsanitary working conditions, etc.). The Migration Observatory, a very useful resource for this project, identifies that one significant barrier for this intersection of people is that migrant women may have transferable skills aplenty, but are a lot more likely than men to not have had these skills formally recognised. The ‘Second Shift’ faced by working women with families is, of course, a major example of such aptitude for work which goes unrecognised, but refugee women are also more likely than most to have had poor access to education in their prior lives, resulting in further skills unrecognised. When it comes both to prospective employers and to policies encompassing these women, their extant abilities ought to be a greater consideration.
The language barrier makes a reappearance now, with direct links made between English proficiency and household income, further affecting levels of access to adequate healthcare, childcare, education and employment. While language in itself might not seem an intrinsic obstacle, low English comprehension serves to exacerbate the many problems previously indicated. Ultimately, communication is an essential component of effectively providing for migrants’ needs; language learning is crucial, in all aspects of life, for integrating migrants, and especially migrant women.
20th October 2021
The intersection of obstacles facing refugee women
Examining the barriers that the women encompassed by this project face reveals numerous obstacles, some more obvious than others. Some of these obstacles are gender-based, some are racially motivated, but it is important to continually emphasise the intersection of issues that face migrant women as a whole, but female refugees often to a greater degree, not least because refugees tend to be in a more vulnerable position. Ultimately, that’s what this is all about – vulnerability.
One report, focusing specifically on the barriers migrant women in Ireland face, concluded that the primary triad of obstacles (and they make top three by a significant margin) are the language barrier, limited provision of work permits by the host country and extensive childcare costs and responsibilities. These factors tend to affect women more so than men due to a variety of concerns.
While (blue card) work permit applications from migrants in Ireland generally are processed quite slowly (with wait times sometimes exceeding a year), migrant and refugee women are adversely affected by this issue to a greater degree than men due to Ireland’s family reunification policies. These reunification policies, while providing the impetus to accommodate families split up (potentially, as in the case of many refugees) due to disaster, fail to incorporate the employable attributes of those admitted. This is a serious problem, especially for women, due to the policy’s disproportionate distribution of gender impacting this intersection.
From the same report, we can identify exorbitant childcare costs – all the more devastating when combined with strict benefits systems which serve to sever funding for claimants upon the commencement of employment. Together, this discourages many from entering work, in order to maintain a sufficiently secure income for said childcare. Once again, this is an issue inordinately affecting women.
Suitable opportunities should be made accessible to everyone, regardless The language barrier, an important focus of this project, can manifest itself in several guises. In addition, this barrier is closely linked to cultural barriers, regarding migrants’ awareness of local employment laws. Together, as highlighted in a report investigating severe labour exploitation of migrant women, these coalesce into illegal working circumstances, whether it be limited pay, improper labour conditions, exhausting hours, and the list goes on…
Evidently, this group of people face challenges unprecedented by many of us, which is reflected in their relatively high rates of unemployment. To tackle this task will involve accounting for various aspects of the refugee woman’s experience and providing comprehensive support to those ends.
11th October 2021
The majority of migrants who live in the UK have reported using English as a first language. This, however, is not true for all migrants. Research carried out by The Migration Observatory shows that migrants who use English as a first language are more likely to be employed and have higher earnings. This creates a lot of pressure for adult migrants moving to the UK as not learning English or struggling to learn English will make their opportunities very limited.
While in the UK we offer ESOL classes, between the years of 2010/11 to 2017/18 there was a decrease in participants. This may be due to a lack of suitable courses, but it may also be down to a lack of funding and extensive waiting lists. While there are no specific budgets for the classes for people learning English as a second language, there is a criterion for who can receive funding. Consequently, people who are not entitled to the funding may have difficulty accessing one of these courses.
Suitable opportunities should be made accessible to everyone, regardless of their background. Statistics show that people with a greater understanding of the English language stand a higher chance of employment and higher-pay but this expectation should not exist. The UK expecting migrants to learn English regardless of their background and experiences is just simply unrealistic. We need to be more considerate of what this may mean for them and while the majority of migrants may be willing to learn English, the accessibility to these courses and finances may not be plausible for them.
English language use and proficiency of migrants in the UK – Migration Observatory – The Migration Observatory (ox.ac.uk)
We need to be careful about demanding migrants speak English | Rosie Driffill | The Guardian
1st October 2021
A recent survey carried out by The Migration Observatory showed that people who migrate for asylum seeking reasons are more likely to be unemployed than people who migrate for family, education, or employment. This is specifically true for female asylum seekers.
When looking at the research that the observatory carried out, it is clear that there is an over and under representation of migrants in certain occupations. The majority of employed nonEU migrants seem to work in occupations such as cleaners and helpers, personal care workers, retail, etc. these are considered to be ‘low-skilled’ jobs, while we see very little representation in occupations such as teaching, business and administration, general and keyboard clerks, etc. these are considered to be ‘high-skilled’ jobs. This misrepresentation is especially true for migrant women. Statistics show that in comparison to UK-born women, migrant women and more specifically, asylum seeking women are less likely to be in employment.
This representation may be due to their understanding of the English language. People are more likely to be employed by UK companies if they have English as a first language. For some of these migrants, English may not even be a language they know and due to this, they will not be able to access the same opportunities as other migrants or citizens. Additionally, the percentage of refugees who have transferable qualifications is low. This means that they may not meet the requirements to work in ‘high-skilled’ jobs such as teaching.
The representation is something that is progressively changing over the years. More people and companies make an active effort to be more inclusive. Furthermore, they try to offer opportunities to help the migrant communities thrive and integrate them into their host societies by providing traineeships and language schools and by giving them access to the possibility of learning English and furthering their chances.
Migrants in the UK Labour Market: An Overview – Migration Observatory – The Migration
11th June 2021
International migration of women, with their families or alone, is an increasingly important and complex phenomenon, but it remains under-documented due to lack of data. New data from International Labour Organization (ILO) offer some insights into the profile of women seeking employment and better opportunities abroad.
In 2017, women accounted for 42 percent of the 164 million migrant workers worldwide. ILOSTAT data show that women’s share of the working-age migrant population has increased over the past decade in 24 of the 63 countries for which time series are available.
The proportion of working-age migrant women with advanced education (tertiary and higher) increased between 2009 and 2019 in 25 of the 40 countries for which data are available. This trend has been observed in many Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) member countries since the 2000s.
While women often have lower employment-to-population ratios than men in general, the gender gap in employment tends to be larger among migrants. Overall, migrant women are less likely to be employed than migrant men, with respective average employment-to-population ratios of 75 percent and 85 percent.
Migrant women are also disadvantaged in terms of the quality of the jobs they get. In a large majority of countries, they are more likely to work in elementary occupations than men. For instance, in France 24% of female migrant workers were employed as cleaners or helpers in 2016For more information, please check the whole study by ILO:
“ILO Global Estimates on International Migrant Workers”, 2018, ILO Labour Migration Branch & ILO Department of Statistics
10th May 2021
A relatively recent book gathers narratives of 74 working migrant women from a variety of countries and with various backgrounds, who have settled in the UK from 1945 to 2016. The author, Professor Linda McDowell, collected all the stories through interviewing the women between 1992 and 2012. As the author highlights it:
“More than 70 women tell their stories in their own words, revealing the enormous contribution they have made to this country, not only through their waged work but also through making the UK a more diverse, tolerant country. The migration rhetoric is sometimes negative, particularly recently, but my hope is that these inspiring stories of “ordinary” but inspiring lives will help challenge some of the negativity around the impact of migration in the UK.”
What is interesting is that the lives of the aforementioned migrant women have been spent in typically low paid jobs, in caring for others, on the buses, in factories, waiting at tables, or for the more fortunate and better qualified, teaching in schools and universities or working in banks, in libraries or operating theatres.
For more information, please check this article here:
“Migrant women speak out about working life in the UK over the last 60 years”, 8th March 2016, University of Oxford
4th March 2021
High unemployment rate among migrant women in Finland
In Finland, as in many parts of Europe, unemployment is high among women of a foreign background. Only slightly more than half of migrant women are employed. The position of migrant women in the job market is currently poor in Finland, even among migrant groups who have good education background and good language skills.
According to a study by the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment in Finland, the employment rate of foreign-background women in Finland was 55 % in 2020, whereas for women of Finnish origin it was 72 %. In contrast, the employment rate of men with a foreign background was quite high (70 %), close to those of Finnish origin.
The employment rate of migrant women improves the longer they spend in Finland. However, it does not reach the level of Finnish women even after 15 years. For migrant men, the situation is usually close to the level of Finnish men after about 3 years in Finland.
Marisel Soto Godoy from migrant women’s association Monika-Naiset suggests as methods improving the integration of migrant women in Finland to have more integration training at work places instead of classrooms, where the women would learn the language while working. It would also be important to start studying faster, especially language studies. Some methods, such as salary support for the employer, might encourage employers to see the potential and hire more migrant women.