The Meandering Social Worker

wandering : wondering : learning

Archive for the tag “refugees”

Refugees (un)welcome here

In response to an article in Take Part:

Here’s how I see it. The problem of refugees from Syria and surrounding areas arriving in large numbers on the shores of Europe exists, and all the NIMBYism in the world won’t make it go away. We have to understand the causes and find the best way to resolve the problem.

If the USA and parts of Europe hadn’t interfered in the Middle East and removed despotic but stable dictatorships, creating a void that could be filled by even more despotic but unstable terrorist groups, then the current problem, particularly with ISIS, would not have arisen in the first place. And all the time we continue to interfere the problems will continue. There are plenty of analyses that point to the rise of ISIS being a direct consequence of the actions of the USA and UK in Iraq long before Russia got involved (there are too many to cross reference in this blog but here is just one that appears quite clear to follow). And the flow of weapons and arms from the West to the Middle East is compounding the situation. For those reasons alone we have a responsibility to hold our governments and the arms dealers at least to account. And they have a duty to help resolve the problems they have caused, which will of course impact on us, the general population in the West.

In the meantime, whether we like it or not, there is a humanitarian crisis going on, on our doorstep. We can’t just bury our heads in the sand and hope it will go away. Not least, because our governments and arms dealers are continuing to exacerbate the situation while operating a smoke and mirrors dialogue trying to tell us otherwise.

The surrounding countries that are willing to take in the refugees (about half of those in the area and most notably NOT Saudi Arabia, one of the few remaining stable but exceptionally despotic countries in the region but whom we choose to call ‘friends’ and to not attack, no doubt for our governments’ own selfish economic reasons) are already saturated, far more than we can imagine if you look at the figures.

Most refugees and asylum seekers actually want to go back to their home countries eventually (and one is quoted here in this article as saying just that), but they can’t yet because they’ve been bombed on both sides into virtual obliteration. And with bombing and destruction still going on there would be no point in trying to rebuild what was once there. There’s little or nothing to go back to in many (not all, I agree) areas. Most want to work, such as the IT expert quoted in the Take Part article (above). Most just want to be with their families. You can see that too in this article and elsewhere. And family is a much wider concept to non-Westernised cultures than we generally understand in our modern world. It’s one we used to experience a couple of centuries ago but our modern individualistic / nuclear family lifestyles eroded it away. Many are actually originally from wealthier, educated, professional backgrounds (they’re the only ones who could afford the traffickers’ fees to get as far as Europe in the first place) with skills to offer and the ability to work and contribute.

Fears that terrorists are using refugees as cover for getting into the West are no doubt valid to some extent, although the evidence suggests that taking this dangerous and laborious route is not actually necessary: they have plenty of means of recruiting local activists through online radicalisation, and others have shown they have more reliable means of travel. One problem that could arise though, is that in reacting in fear and loathing towards the refugees and asylum seekers, they see in us a hatred and fear that makes them vulnerable to the hate preaching of the radicalisers. By our own actions and attitudes we could be turning them against us and into the arms of the terrorists. A second problem we are creating is that in further punishing the refugees and asylum seekers we are compounding all the psychological problems they have experienced through the wars in their homelands. This reduces their abilities to settle anywhere or rebuild their lives, and again makes them vulnerable to fundamentalist recruiters.

We have to step above and beyond our fears, our NIMBYism, and see the bigger picture. Building walls and blowing up bridges won’t stop the refugees coming and it won’t stop the reasons they are coming. We have to be a part of finding solutions that work for both the refugees and for us. To stop the wars and make their homelands safe places they can return to and rebuild. And right now, pitting ourselves against each other – bleeding hearts versus the wall builders – is allowing our governments to get away with continuing doing all the things that helped exacerbate this situation in the first place.


Claimants Tricked Out of Benefits, Says Jobcentre Whistleblower

There was a time when the JobCentre was there to help people find jobs. When I went into my local JobCentre in the summer of 2012 to inquire about work opportunities I was pointed towards a computer terminal and told to get on with it. It was made clear this was normal practice, no additional help normally available.

The blog from Beastrabban\’s Weblog below shows comments on a Guardian report from 2011 about the practices of JobCentres. My experience from 2012 and since suggests not a lot has changed.

In my recent voluntary work in the autumn of 2013 I worked with people who are terrified of being sanctioned because they have not met JobCentre demands to apply online for a specified number of jobs every day or every week. Some of these applications often have to be made online via a specific website the JobCentre can access to track claimants’ activity. The website is cumbersome to use and prone to faults. It doesn’t matter if the claimant has never used a computer before, or even if they know how to turn a computer on let alone access the internet, let alone cope with clunky inadequate jobsearch websites. It doesn’t matter that many online applications can take an hour to complete for even the most competent computer user. They still have to achieve the target of job applications using a system with which they are either unfamiliar or not confident. There is no support or sympathy from the JobCentre. Instead the claimants are expected to enlist the help of friends or family who are more familiar with computers and the internet if that’s possible, or find their way to public internet cafes (where these still exist and can become quite expensive); or the alternative option of using UK Online Centres which are usually most easily found in libraries where they are over-subscribed and time limited to an hour (not enough to fill in a job application with ASDA which takes an hour and a half for someone experienced at using the internet – I tried it) and with only the minimum of help and advice available. In larger towns the voluntary sector is filling in the gap with UK Online provisions but funding is poor and dependent on volunteers, many of whom themselves are there because they need the work experience to keep the JobCentre happy.

Meanwhile a whole industry has been created out of this situation. Private agencies who are publicly funded provide work related training, the better ones having offices where clients can access the internet for job searches.

But the greatest damage is in the stress caused by fear of sanctions. In some people their stress levels have become so high it has blocked their capacity to learn even the simplest of things.

Stress can do that. It can block the ability to learn. I’ve been there myself, in a particularly stressful work situation where I was conscious of the fact that while I could continue to function on a day to day basis I was completely incapable of learning from new experiences or even make the best use of ‘reflective’ learning.

I’ve also seen the effect in others when I worked with refugees from war torn countries: intelligent men (and sometimes women) whose terrible memories and experiences were so overpowering they struggled to learn new skills that would help them settle in their new environment (this effect was well known at the time but I will have to find the links to any further evidence and add it here later – in the meantime there is reference to the effect of stress on learning at

Targets and sanctions are the tools of the neoliberal, capitalist, managerialist, society and work environment that has been created over the last couple of decades. But it’s not effective. The weakest and more vulnerable, the already disempowered, are the victims of this society we have created. And it’s time we spoke up about the effect this is having.

Beastrabban\'s Weblog

This is another video from the Guardian’s Youtube channel. It’s an expose of how the DWP has set targets to get people thrown off Jobseekers’ Allowance. These revelations are made by a whistleblower, whose face is naturally shadowed and voice disguised. He states that there is competition between departments and offices to have the most people thrown off benefits. According to the Jobcentre employee, the staff have two option available for getting someone off benefits: either find them a job, ‘which is really difficult’, or have them thrown off benefits ‘which is really easy’. He states that the DWP deliberately targets the young, because of their lack of maturity and experience, the under-educated, and those with problems reading and writing, such as sufferers from dyslexia. They will not try to remove the tough and experienced from the benefits system.

Mike over at Vox Political has described Atos and the Coalition…

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