Ashton MP Angela Rayner met Sudanese and Congolose refugees to hear about the struggles they’ve faced since arriving in the UK.
The men and women, who all live in Tameside, are currently accessing Refugee Action’s Gateway Resettlement Programme, which aims to help new arrivals to the country integrate within their new communities and rebuild their lives in safety.
The group told Angela that they were desperate for more language training to help them fully embrace all opportunities available to them.
Hussain and Amal arrived from Sudan last year. They are given ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) training for an hour once a week. Hussain said: “The training is good, but we need more hours each week so we can learn the language quicker and fully integrate.
I want to volunteer and to work but I can’t do this at the moment because my English isn’t good enough. My wife and I are very happy here and we are so grateful that we now live in safety. We have been welcomed and we want to fully contribute to our new community.”
Prosper and his wife Fatuma arrived in the UK from the Democratic Republic of Congo in July with their four young children. Prosper has been given ESOL training since their arrival but Fatuma can’t access this service as she has to look after the children at home.
Prosper said: “Speaking the language of the place where you live is the key to everything. When you are new to a country, you can’t do anything without knowing the language. I am so grateful that my children now live in a country that is safe and I want to help them with their homework. I get three hours of ESOL training each week but I would like more so I can learn faster.”
Fatuma added: “The language barrier makes it hard to access things such as the NHS and that is a concern when you have young children. I want to learn the language as quickly as possible so I can communicate with the people where I live and integrate properly. I am so happy that my children will grow up in a country that is safe.”
Refugee Action are hoping to introduce new sessions in Tameside where refugees can take their children while they access ESOL training so they can learn and socialise at the same time.
Angela, who is Shadow Education Secretary, told the refugees: “Part of my role is to hold the Government to account and challenge them to make sure education policies are up to standard. Access to learning is so important and I will take everything you have said away with me and help you get the support you need to live happy lives.
She added: “Many refugees have been through unbelievable, near catastrophic experiences and are desperate to seek shelter and safety. Our country has a proud history of supporting refugees and it was a very humbling experience for me to meet these wonderful people.”