Young refugees face some huge issues in life that stop them from having a normal life and progressing to become fulfilled in life. These include mental health issues that come from past traumas they have faced, barriers to getting a basic education, and high vulnerability that comes from misunderstandings with the public and the police.
The KRAN Youth Forum is a group of refugee young people who have decided to tackle some of these issues. The issues are complex and involve many different parts. They are the result of how refugees and people around them react to daily occurrences, and these in turn are caused by the different beliefs and perspectives that everyone has. And when some people have the power to enforce their will on others, forces combine to create a horrid set of consequences that seem to land unfairly and harmfully, on young refugees.
To start to solve these issues requires many people of different perspectives and abilities to come together, identify what needs to be fixed, and to start different parallel actions to explore what works and what does not. KRAN uses an approach called Action Learning which is a way in which people can frame an understanding of what is going on, decide what to do about it, do it, see what happens and use the evidence from this to evolve new understanding. This in turn gives rise to new decisions, new actions and more evidence.
The KRAN Youth Forum has started Action Learning sets around each the big issues that affect refugee youth, namely education, mental health and vulnerability. To make sure that we get different perspectives on these, we have invited a wide range of people to become involved. So far, we now have two social workers, a specialist English-as-a-second-language teacher, community engagement staff from the Kent Police force, a lecturer from East Kent College, an officer from the Department of Works and Pensions and seven refugee youth.
One Action Learning set is exploring how cultural attitudes towards women and girls creates confusion and harm around issues of consent, giving rise to serious allegations against young refugees that results in them being falsely accused and drives them into isolation. Another set is exploring how mental health issues are being exacerbated through additional stresses and withdrawal of mental and wider health services from asylum seeking children.
Some early actions are being tried, including having group discussions about societal roles of men and women in different countries, and comparing this to acceptable cultural behaviours in UK. We are still in the early stages of this, and we have not solved these issues yet. There has been a huge leap in understanding and relationships between refugees and social care staff. This means that flash points are now becoming points of exploration and we are seeing what appears to be the start of helpful change. We will keep working on this and expect that in a fairly short period of time, we will see improvements and stronger social relationships.
We are also pressing ahead to tackle better ways of ensuring that young people are able to continue their education and attend the courses and educational pathways that they want to pursue.