Working together to support newly-enfranchised refugee communities in Scotland

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Working together to support newly-enfranchised refugee communities blog

This year’s Scottish Parliament election on 6 May was the first opportunity for refugees and other newly-enfranchised foreign nationals to vote in an election in Scotland, following the extension of the franchise for Scottish elections in February 2020.

Ahead of the election, we ran a targeted digital advertising campaign called ‘Welcome to your vote’, to encourage the newly-enfranchised to register to vote. We knew, however, that the refugee population in Scotland is diverse and that New Scots may face challenges in registering, such as language barriers or a mistrust of political systems.

For these reasons we knew it was vital to work with partners who have trusted relationships with refugee communities and understand the varied needs of the people they work with, including the Scottish Refugee Council and local authority resettlement officers.

Together we created a set of information and engagement resources informed by six focus groups run by the Scottish Refugee Council, which we launched at an online event in February this year. The event was supported by Maryhill Integration Network, the VOICES Network, and was attended by 100 New Scots and community groups.

The resources were available to community groups on the Scottish Refugee Council’s New Scots Connect platform, and included:

  • A facilitator’s handbook for professionals working with New Scots
  • Political literacy activities for use by community groups
  • An FAQ for New Scots, available in Arabic, Farsi, Kurdish and French

These were used by local authority resettlement officers, including Jumana Almusawi from East Renfrewshire Council, who said:

Quote 1

We used the promotional resources and the political literacy resources developed by the Electoral Commission to raise our refugees’ awareness of their right to vote. We are proud to say that our refugees were well-informed before the election.”
 

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The Scottish Refugee Council also used the resources to run 19 online sessions for refugee groups in the lead up to the election.

Graham O’Neill, Policy Manager at the Scottish Refugee Council said:

Quote 2

The Electoral Commission in Scotland were pivotal to increasing awareness, practical accessibility and enjoyment of the new and precious right to vote for refugees. They produced excellent resources, collaborated with refugees successfully, and enhanced the democratic process as a result."

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These partnerships were essential for both developing the resources and ensuring they reached New Scots. We are incredibly grateful to all the organisations and community groups who helped us spread the word. We will work with partners to build on this work ahead of the council elections in 2022. 

If your organisation supports New Scots we would love to hear from you. You can email us at infoscotland@electoralcommission.org.uk