When refugees flee their country of origin they leave behind them friends and family and often end up living in places where they do not know anyone.
Being lonely and isolated is a problem for anyone but for refugees it can mean that they experience “migration bereavement” and can be more susceptible to anxiety and stress. Social connections are also important because they provide access to information and help, as well as the opportunity to help others, which has been shown to improve individuals’ wellbeing. Evidence shows that while refugees would like to make friends with local people they can be worried about how to make connections and local people generally do not reach out to newcomers. Thus it may be necessary to find ways to help refugees connect with friends and family and with local people so they can enjoy a wide social network while local people make new friends. There are ways such connections can be facilitated.
- Provide access to social media, Wi-Fi and a PC or smart phone so people can video call friends and family to stay in touch.
- Try to find individuals of a similar age and sex to act as informal mentors or befrienders.
- Organise language cafes, craft or other interest groups to bring refugees together with other local people.
- Make sure refugee children starting school are paired with friendly students to help them settle in.
- Help refugees to meet with others from similar backgrounds by offering meeting spaces or transport
- Ask refugees to offer language classes for local people.
- Provide volunteering opportunities to enable refugees to meet people while developing some UK work experience.
- Organise regular events to bring refugees and local people together – food sharing or pot luck events are popular.
- Identify the skills or knowledge that your refugees have and give them the opportunity to share these with local people if they want to – this might mean teaching dress-making or cooking skills, playing an instrument at a shared music night or even talking about their religion or culture.
Find out more
You can find more ideas about how to support social connections on the EU integration website and from around the world on the Cities of Migration website.