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Explore the UK Data Service collection for insights into the refugee experience

According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), across the globe one person is forcibly displaced roughly every two seconds as a result of conflict or persecution.

It’s a startling statistic and a trend the organisation says has led to more than 70 million people around the world fleeing their homes. Among them are nearly 26 million refugees, over half of whom are under the age of 18.

In the UK, there are 126,720 refugees, according to the latest figures – their contributions, creativity and resilience celebrated annually during Refugee Week, which takes place this week.

It’s a good time, then, for researchers who are looking to gain insights into the refugee experience to explore datasets held in the UK Data Service collection.

They include the Survey of New Refugees, 2005-2009 study. This is made up of a baseline questionnaire to collect information on the characteristics of refugees at the time of their asylum decision, including their previous education and employment, English language ability, physical and emotional health, and their social support and service needs.

Three follow-up questionnaires were then used to collect information on how these refugees integrated in the UK over 21 months. Integration was considered in terms of the English language skills, employment and housing of new refugees, and how these changed over time. Over 900 refugees provided information at all four sweeps.


Practical guidelines
The complexities of sharing and archiving qualitative research data relating to refugees and immigration, when participants may be vulnerable and some of the topics sensitive, was explored in a seminar hosted by the UK Data Service at the University of Essex last November.

A number of experts spoke about projects they have been involved in – the presentations offering practical guidelines for reusing data of this nature. Details of the different presentations can be explored here together with some wonderful images drawn by Simon Pearsall, who was commissioned to illustrate the key themes raised at the event.


The integration and well-being of refugees was the subject of the Refugee resettlement and long term integration 2006-2018
study, which contains data from a survey completed with refugees
resettled to the UK and resident (at the time of the survey) in
Manchester, Sheffield, Norwich or Brighton and Hove. Refugees arrived in
the UK in 2010 or earlier and data was collected at three time points
approximately one year apart in 2014, 2015 and 2016.

The first
survey involved 280 refugees and the same individuals completed
subsequent surveys in slightly smaller numbers with 180 individuals
completing the third survey. Refugees originate from Ethiopia, Iraq and
the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Another dataset held by the UK Data Service  – Moving on: Integration and onward migration of dispersed refugees in the UK – includes in-depth interviews with 83 refugees across the UK and explored issues including arrival to the UK, experiences of the dispersal process, opinions and experiences of place, integration and citizenship. The ESRC-funded project, which was carried out from 2012 to 2014, fills a knowledge gap surrounding the onward migration decisions and integration outcomes of refugees who were dispersed as asylum seekers in the UK.

Refugee children
Finally, the experience of refugee children – the upheavals and trauma they experience and how they have to cope with life in a strange country – is at the heart of the ‘Children’s Worlds … Children’s Lives …’ Survey, 1997 –  a survey conducted in two London schools with refugee and non-refugee children aged 11-13 years, focusing on their social roles and social networks.

There are many more datasets held by the UK Data Service, which are relevant to the refugee experience and can be searched for from the main website.