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by Philip Trott

How employers can now hire from a great talent pool of refugees


19 August 2021

Employers are urged to register for a scheme to give a deserving pool of talent who have fled devastating conflict a chance to find sanctuary for their families, as well as skilled employment.

Refugees from war-torn parts of the world such as Afghanistan, Syria, Iraq and Gaza are to be offered five-year visas to fill vacancies in the UK as part of a pilot scheme which features in the Government’s flagship Nationality and Borders Bill.

The displaced talent need to demonstrate they have the skills for jobs on the UK’s shortage occupation list, which includes nurses, care workers, engineers, IT workers, architects and vets to qualify among many others. The pilot – initially for 100 workers and their families – is to be run in partnership with the charity Talent Beyond Boundaries (TBB). The organisation helps employers in Australia, Canada, the US and UK help refugees into jobs.

Afghan appeal

I would recommend any employer to have a look at the TBB website and register their interest as it is a great organisation, offering support at every stage of bringing people who have fled the worst conflict zones into positions where they can use their vast array of skills. One doesn’t need to follow the daily news to realise how important such a lifeline can be.

The main nationalities of these displaced potential employees are Syrian, Palestinian, Iraqi, Yemeni and Sudanese. Many are educated to doctorate level. There are also nearly one hundred talented Afghans registered on TBB’s Talent Catalogue already, including computer programmers, business administrators, engineers, teachers and cooks. The organisation has now launched this appeal to raise funds required to extend its outreach to more Afghan refugees who may now be displaced in third countries.

Happy ending

Talent Beyond Boundaries was set up in 2014 and now has an immense pool of talent that has fled to Jordan and Lebanon from conflicts such as the Syrian Civil War. I first came across TBB in 2018 when I advised them on the immigration law aspects of bringing skilled workers to the UK and helped their first client who had fled the Syrian conflict into employment.

Together we negotiated the immigration hurdles of a five-year Tier 2 visa (the precursor of the new Skilled Worker route) to bring their first hire from a refugee camp in the Lebanon to work in a specialist computer role in the UK, together with his family. The reality is that not many migrants fleeing persecution carry with them as they flee, copies of their references, degrees or any other evidence of their qualifications for such posts. Nor are they likely to be able to acquire such copies (with any ease) from institutions destroyed by war. Such difficulties were overcome by an interview process conducted online and by zoom from the refugee camp to identify his knowledge, experience and suitability. He successfully qualified as a Tier 2 migrant and is happily now working in the UK and will qualify for permanent residence at the end of five years in Tier 2 employment.

Employers can register interest

Hopefully the pilot scheme the Home Secretary announced will also be a path to permanent settlement too. I would urge any employer to visit the Talent Beyond Boundaries website where the range of talent the organisation has tapped up is now immense. From chefs to healthcare workers, there are a whole host of refugees whose lives would be transformed by the opportunity to work in the UK.

Employers can register, with the roles they need filling and TBB will not only link them with potential talent, but support throughout the process – from interviews to visas to settling into the UK and their new position with new colleagues. The experience of sponsoring a refugee will be more than rewarding for all concerned.

Potential talent for the UK workforce

It is great to see a skilled worker route straight into employment for refugees in the Nationality and Borders Bill. The UK asylum system can take years to negotiate, and people can be stuck in limbo unable to work for long periods. People currently languishing in refugee camps have so much potential talent and determination to offer the UK work market. Especially as the UK employment market – with no freedom of movement from Europe – is currently full of urgent vacancies since the economy has bounced back from the pandemic.

Hopefully the scheme that Priti Patel has unveiled will be opened up beyond 100 refugees and their families as that is just a drop in the ocean, however you look at it. The Home Secretary has said that this pilot will operate alongside, and not instead of routes to resettlement for those in need of protection. With a numerical target disappearing off the UK Resettlement Scheme, let’s also hope that the UK does not turn its back on its more general commitments to offer sanctuary and not return refugees to countries where they face serious threats to their lives and freedom. These principles that are about to be put to the test are enshrined in international commitments signed in the 1951 Refugee Convention in the aftermath of genocide and world wars.


(Main hoto by Kyaw Zaw Nyi on Unsplash. Photo of Philip Trott by Tina Korhonen)