Queen's Policy Engagement

How not to resettle refugees – lessons from the struggles of the Vietnamese boat people

Article first appeared in The Conversation.

How not to resettle refugees – lessons from the struggles of the Vietnamese boat people

Reports surfaced in July that a refugee living on the island of Bute off the West coast of Scotland had described her new home as “where people come to die”. Although it is early days for the UK’s Syrian Vulnerable Person Resettlement Scheme, these initial signs of alienation are troubling.

The two Syrian families quoted in the Daily Mail, who are reportedly struggling in Bute, hardly represent most refugees in the UK. Aside from the fact that the quote may have been lost in translation, Argyll and Bute council stressed that many families have settled in well.

Still, despite the welcome received by Syrians across the country, is simply sending refugees to the first areas that accept them the best long-term strategy?

We have been here before. In 1979, Margaret Thatcher grudgingly agreed that the UK would accept 10,000 Vietnamese refugees following global media attention about their plight. Last summer, equally traumatic images of Syrians escaping their war-torn homeland on rickety crafts prompted David Cameron’s pledge to resettle 20,000 people by 2020.

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The featured image in this article has been used thanks to a Creative Commons licence.


Jack Crangle
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Jack is a PhD candidate at Queen's University Belfast, researching immigration history and ethnic minorities in Northern Ireland. Jack obtained his BA in History and Politics from Queen's University in 2014 and received his MA in Irish History from the same institution the following year.

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