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Last Updated: Monday, 14 March, 2005, 05:58 GMT
Britain 'wasting' refugee skills
Woman scientist
Refugee professionals are being urged to update their skills
Highly qualified refugees are being ignored for jobs in their chosen professions, resulting in a "scandalous waste" of skills, a report has warned.

The Council for Assisting Refugee Academics (Cara) says Britain is ignoring the potential of thousands of engineers, doctors and other workers.

The charity is calling for funding to help refugees realise their potential.

It has published a handbook, backed by the government and trade unions, urging refugees to seek funding for training.

Cara estimates there are 1,500 doctors, dentists and other health workers living as refugees in Britain but only a few employed in their chosen field.

A further 2,000 refugees are highly skilled in engineering, science, education, healthcare and computing, but are not being employed to the same level as they were in their countries of origin.

This is not only a waste, it is scandal that more is not done
Cara executive secretary John Akker

Examples include a doctor working in the UK as a care assistant, a lawyer turned bus driver and a violinist and composer employed as a support worker.

The charity says it could cost as little as 1,000 to prepare a refugee doctor to practise in the UK, compared with 250,000 to train someone from scratch.

Other professionals, including engineers and scientists, could have their skills updated for much less.

But, at a time of shortages of skilled workers in these fields, the charity says many refugee specialists are either unemployed or working in unskilled jobs.

The charity's executive secretary John Akker said: "This is not only a waste, it is scandal that more is not done, given that often the applications that Cara receives for support are from people with skills in areas where we are crying out for key workers.

It is tragic that so many talented individuals are denied the opportunity to maximise their potential
TUC deputy general secretary Frances O'Grady

"Just a small grant from Cara can change a refugee's whole life and give the UK a key worker. However, the charity cannot fund all the applications it receives and many go unsupported."

He said more resources and guidance for refugees on how to update their skills were urgently needed to stop "pools of talent" from remaining untapped.

TUC deputy general secretary Frances O'Grady said the issue of skilled academics and professionals has been overlooked in the debate about immigration and asylum-seekers.

She said: "It is tragic that so many talented individuals are denied the opportunity to maximise their potential, especially when we are crying out for their skills in so many areas.

"We need to separate this issue from the hyperbole and urgently reassess how we treat the thousands of people in this country who are forced into jobs way below their ability."

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