International health experts at Queen Margaret University have used their research skills to improve the well-being of people living in countries affected by armed conflict. Long standing work in this area has led to further research focusing on the experience of people seeking refuge and asylum away from conflict-affected areas.
Specialists from Queen Margaret University’s Institute for Global Health and Development have developed a framework to assess refugee integration policy which aims to measure levels of integration in society. This research is helping to inform new policies and practices; the Scottish Refugee Council, for example, uses the framework as the basis for the 'Holistic Integration Service'; a comprehensive support programme for all new refugees in Scotland. The Scottish strategy for the integration of asylum seekers and refugees, 'New Scots', uses the framework to promote integration by improving policy and practice across Scotland.
Staff from the Institute for Global Health and Development have carried out significant international research into refugee integration. They have continued to build on this work by developing their understanding of social connections within refugee communities, as well as refugees relationships with local communities. This has led to the development of an assessment tool for local project staff and community groups. This will help staff map the pattern of social connections. A recent study conducted by QMU staff , funded by the UK NHS, used the tool to explore the relationship between social connections and mental health amongst asylum seekers.
One QMU academic was appointed to chair the Scottish Government Refugee Integration Strategy consultation process in 2012, and continues as chair of the three year implementation programme. She has contributed by invitation to a number of EU commissioned policy consultations where her involvement has helped to shape EU integration policy. The Scottish Refugee Council has used the framework consistently since 2004 to inform and evaluate their integration support and development programme and for staff and community training. This has led to an increased emphasis on promoting social connections between refugees and established members of local communities, as well as between refugees. Now, two strong community groups run by refugees (Scottish Refugee Policy Forum and the Refugee Women’s Strategy Group) demonstrate a clear commitment to building social connections using ‘bonds’, ‘bridges’ and ‘links’ as highlighted in the framework.
This research has had a direct impact on government policies in the UK, Europe, Australia and New Zealand. It has also helped to impact on service delivery to refugee and asylum-seekers in Scotland. This has resulted in these groups experiencing improved health and psychosocial well-being. It has also positively affected the social cohesion of refugees and asylum seekers and host populations.
This work is an excellent example of the work carried out by the University’s Institute for Global Health and Development and its drive to improve the lives of people affected by conflict.