British public wants refugees to learn English – but cuts are creating barriers, says Refugee Action

Nearly three quarters of UK people think refugees learning English is beneficial to Britain, but 55 per cent cuts to funding for English language classes since 2008/09 mean that refugees are struggling to access the classes they need to help rebuild their lives.

Those are the findings of a new report and poll by national charity Refugee Action, calling on the government to ensure a proper English language strategy for England is put in place, and invest the funds needed to ensure that refugees are given quick access to English classes.

let refugees learn

Refugee Action’s report Let Refugees Learn clearly highlights the desire and determination among refugees to learn English. It shows that without exception, refugees want to learn English because they want to live independently and self-sufficiently.

Refugee Action is calling on the government to act on five essential recommendations:

  1. Create a fund that would give refugees that require English lessons free, accessible English classes for their first two years in England. Our analysis shows this would cost around £1600 per refugee per year and would be effectively reimbursed through taxes within the first 8 months of employment on the national average wage. This would require the Government to invest £47m a year to achieve this goal.
  1. Publish an ESOL strategy for England. This should set national targets for ESOL provision and attainment; and enshrine refugees’ timely access to ESOL as an entitlement
  1. Ensure full and equal access to ESOL, particularly for women. Female refugees’ ability to attend English language classes can be improved ensuring they have access to childcare facilities that will make this possible
  1. Provide asylum seekers with the right to access free English language classes
  1. Facilitate a national framework for community based language support

Stephen Hale, Chief Executive of Refugee Action, says: “Refugees see English as absolutely essential to settling in Britain, becoming part of their new communities and finding work. Our government must let refugees learn. This will not only benefit them, it will benefit Britain.”

For further information on this campaign and to read the report, visit:



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