In summer 2012 the UK Young Ambassadors (UKYA) led a 3-month, UK-wide consultation about migration and youth participation

, as part of a European consultation of young people. The UK consultation, involving 1000 young people aged 11-25yrs, 12% of whom were from migrant background, included on and off line surveys, consultation workshops, film interviews and a roundtable with experts, asylum seekers and refugees. This is what we learnt . . .
The EU define a young migrant as a young person not born in this country, however the UKYA’s understand that young people from migrant families often have similar experiences even if they are born in Britain. It is considered that respondents to the consultation may have perceived young people from different ethnic backgrounds or from migrant families as also part of the EU defined ‘Young Migrants’.

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Young people told us about the key obstacles to young migrants’ social inclusion
Language is a fundamental barrier for integration with insufficient provisions of interpreters and funding cuts to ESOL classes leading to isolation for many migrants as they are not able to access services or build relationships. Stereotypical and discriminatory attitudes within the non-migrant population causes divides within communities and can act as a barrier to young people from migrant background getting into employment. Negative media coverage is seen to compound this issue as non-migrants are not educated about the legalities, challenging circumstances and cultural differences of migrants
Types of discrimination witnessed or experienced towards young people from migrant background

“The media is so prejudiced against migrant communities which then becomes the norm for people. There is no mention of the positives of multicultural communities.”

----------------------------------------------------------------Exclusion --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------Lack of respect or trust --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------Physical abuse --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------Social / legal discrimination --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------Verbal abuse -----------------------------------------------------------------

Young refugees and asylum seekers told us about legal barriers that they felt prevented them from integrating
Young refugees and asylum seekers have limited access to education. Under 18s often have to wait up to a year for a school place, those over 18 have limited access to schools or colleges, and access to university is nearly prohibited due having to pay international fees. Young asylum seekers and refugees have no right to work whilst their immigration status is being assessed. This contributes to experiences of poverty and impacts of their ability to access education. Young refugees and asylum seekers explained that being dependent on allocated housing leads to being isolated in poor areas, often placed amongst other migrant communities thereby without any opportunity for integration through mixed communities or schools. They are also often moved multiple times and unable to establish roots in a community. Many young people in refugee or asylum seeking families act as translators for parents during legal or health appointments and thereby are taken away from a normal childhood of school and making friends. Other concerns amongst young refugees and asylum seekers included lack of passports inhibiting freedom to travel, the impact of being age disputed and thereby being placed inappropriate education and services.

“They don’t feel that people deserve the right to be heard if it was their own choice to move to a foreign country.”
Young people also suggested that politicians fuelled this negative portrayal, and they felt that MPs should stop ‘anti-migration’ talk and using terms which isolate migrant communities such as ‘British Jobs for British People’.

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“In a diverse community where everyone is integrated well together, people lose their prejudices and treat people more or less the same regardless of their background.” “Community inspired celebration events of different cultures.”

Young people’s recommendations to improve social inclusion of young migrants:
Young people felt there are many opportunities for young people to get involved already exist but they need better promotion of opportunities which pays attention to publicity that is accessible.

“We think we’ve hit the jackpot by using the universality of music!”
Youth Political structures were seen as effective way for young people, including young people from migrant backgrounds, to have their say and effect change and young people from migrant backgrounds should be encouraged to get involved.

“Having structures in place such as youth forums that allow these young people to feel that they can make a positive impact in their local community.” Young people’s recommendations to improve participation of young migrants:
Better language provision that includes more funding for accessible English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) classes was emphasised as key to helping young people to integrate and progress in the UK easier. Young people felt more access to interpreters to help support with access services such as doctors and solicitors was also key in educating new migrants and reducing poverty. Other young people’s recommendations included encouraging politicians and young migrants to work together in dialogue and ensuring Parliament is more representative of diverse communities.

“I hear things all the time like why can’t these idiots learn English”
More educational support that encourages integration should include teachers who have been specialised in working with young migrants and culture that supports better understanding in schools about the challenges facing young migrants. More lenient restrictions in the law and policies around asylum seekers and refugees access to employment would enable young people to counteract the misconception that refugees are taking benefits, reduce crime, help the economy and help young people to be included in society. Other recommendations included more support for parents, stable housing and better financial support to access further education.

“When I was about 13 I went to the City youth club and a boy the same age as me had moved into the area from Nigeria. The youth club paired me with him as his peer mentor person. I helped him learn some English and showed him round the area introducing him to my friends and then he started at my school. We are still in contact now even though we, now, go to different colleges”

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Young people’s recommendations to governments and youth organisations:
Young people thought intercultural exchanges are a good way to build understanding and inclusion of young people and should be promoted and supported. Investing in creative and interactive activities in local grassroots activities youth clubs were seen to be more effective ways to learn about different cultures than through formal school programmes.

Taking young people’s opinions forward:
Following the consultation the UK Young Ambassadors felt that many young people were confused about the realities and rights of young migrants. The UKYAs worked with the charity Refugee Youth to develop an interactive workshop for young people in the UK to raise awareness of the issues faced by young refugees and asylum seekers. The free toolkit is designed to be used by anyone in the UK and can be downloaded from The UKYAs presented their consultation findings at the EU Youth Conference in Cyprus attended by representatives from the UK Department for Education and youth ministries from across Europe. The young people and decision makers worked together to develop joint recommendations

“Not cutting public services, all of which improve social cohesion and the quality of life for people overall, including those from migrant backgrounds”
Young people also want better cultural education at schools through the citizenship curriculum up to age of 18, including cultural awareness days.

“I think just being more educated I think just for me I don’t know a lot about other backgrounds and influences. If in schools you were taught more about it and taught about respecting those people it would be better.”
Other young people’s recommendations included mentoring programmes, high-profile campaigns like football’s ‘Show Racism the Red Card’, widening the diversity of organisation’s management, governance structures and membership base, recognising the resources that youth organisations can offer resources such as training around migrant issues, ensure work isn’t tokenistic and consultations actually leads to change.

“The experience taught me that young people from 27 countries represent a much louder voice together than we do individually. We now look to use that voice to see those ideas transformed into reality.”
(UK Young Ambassador) The full report and recommendations can be found here:

“I hope that our recommendations are turned into worthwhile policies or laws that will have an impact on young people and hopefully change their lives. I want to see more young people being involved in decision making and policy making, regardless of their background, so that they feel they are also making a difference to others.”
(UK Young Ambassador) UK Young Ambassadors are working hard to ensure the central role of young people in international decision-making through effective and inclusive representation to secure lasting and positive change for people in the UK. Find out what they are up to at

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