Changing Attitudes to Refugees

Housing for asylum seekers is primarily driven by cost, so areas of the country with cheaper housing, such as the North West, have seen far greater numbers seeking asylum than other parts of the UK. People already living in these areas are not consulted, and asylum seekers have no choice where they are sent, so both groups can be left feeling disempowered and anxious.

The aim of this project is to bring these two groups together, to build a greater understanding of each other by sharing what they have in common, to form social networks and to build a stronger sense of community.

The Brief

The British Red Cross commissioned Hitch to devise, implement, and evaluate a project to tackle prejudice and discrimination towards refugees and asylum seekers.

The project, which is currently ongoing, focuses on areas with the greatest numbers of people seeking asylum, so the first phase is being delivered in Liverpool and Greater Manchester.

The Approach

In partnership with the National Social Marketing Centre, Hitch conducted a secondary review, which supports evidence of the application of 'contact theory’. This research reveals that contact between two groups works best to reduce prejudice if it involves joint activities and a common aim.

We established two key audiences: young people and the “worried middle” and, to understand more about their attitudes and behaviours towards refugees and asylum seekers, invited them to share their thoughts at four focus groups.

In addition, we set up stakeholder co-creation workshops, inviting a mix of community partners and organisations, some who already worked directly with refugees, to meet and share their experiences. They identified ‘togetherness’ and ‘sharing’ as being important to the project.

Following a testing phase, the ‘Open Arms’ project began with a series of meetings across Liverpool and Greater Manchester.

The Results

Hitch supported the British Red Cross to work with local delivery partners to provide activities which involve refugees and asylum seekers working together to the same aim.

A baseline survey measured attitudes in both refugees and asylum seekers, and members of host communities before they became involved in these activities. Our aim is to record a positive shift in attitudes of people involved in these activities by the end of 2018.

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