Today marks the beginning of Refugee Week – an annual festival celebrating the contributions and resilience of refugees.
In August 2021, NATO withdrew from Afghanistan, ending a 20-year conflict and simultaneously becoming the catalyst for a new humanitarian emergency.
Now under Taliban rule, Afghan civilians fled in a panicked evacuation event that was broadcast across the globe.
Amidst the panic, people and organisations did what they could to help those fleeing. The British Government evacuated the BBC staff who wished to leave, and they were relocated to the UK.
A number of the staff were retained by the corporation where roles were available, the remainder were given extra support to provide the stability to address the steps needed to adapt to life in a new country.
Recognising a need for urgent resources, the BBC approached Reed in Partnership, whose employment and resettlement services have helped hundreds of thousands of people to change their lives for the better.
Rapid Employment and Settlement Support
In just thirteen days, Reed in Partnership developed the Rapid Employment and Settlement Support (RESS) service, designed specifically to provide meaningful support to those Afghans that had reached the UK.
The BBC said: “Last year, our utmost priority was to get our employees in Kabul to safety. Now, we are focused on ensuring each one of them is supported in every way possible. Reed in Partnership’s response to this challenge left us in no doubt that they share our mission: there’s a genuine desire, reinforced by the fact that they are offering this pro-bono, to support our Afghan colleagues in a time of great need.
“We know first-hand from those using Reed in Partnership’s service that they have found it an essential component to their integration. We are grateful to everyone who has been involved in this project for freeing up valuable time and resources to make sure our colleagues have every opportunity to provide a new life for themselves and their families.”
"I know things I didn’t know before"
Commenting about one of the BBC team: “From the start, he was very driven”, said William Chapman, a Reed Employment Adviser.
“He has been mentored in CV writing and interviewing, and we helped him with the intricacies of job searching in the UK. He has since had five interviews, and is now waiting for a final offer for a permanent role.”
When he first joined Reed in Partnership’s RESS service, the BBC colleague said he “honestly didn’t know about most things, especially finding jobs and opportunities in the UK”.
“But”, he continued, “I got some very useful coaching; I am very happy with my adviser, William. Now I know things that I didn’t know before.
“I can say my experience of Reed in Partnership was very useful. I understand a lot of things after help from William – thank you very much, I am happy. Anytime, anywhere, forever, I will remember you, William; I will keep in contact with you – I found you strong, honest, and kind.”
Supporting employment and social integration
Dan Lander, Programme Director at Reed in Partnership, said: “We did not think twice about offering our services to help these people.
“70 Afghan refugees have joined our service so far, which is a blended programme of support focusing on developing employment skills within a UK context, and a series of resettlement sessions providing information, advice, and guidance around housing, banking, and biometric residency permits.
“We are also actively signposting every participant to relevant community organisations that can aid their social integration. I’m so pleased that we were able to quickly lend our support to help and there was commitment from everyone at Reed in Partnership to play their part.”
Collaboration between service providers, said Dan, has been key: “The BBC has provided an amazing translator – Kareem – who has been vital in making sure the Afghans we are working with fully understand the information and training they are receiving. And we’ve been working closely with other parts of the Reed Group – such as Reed Talent Solutions and Reed Specialist Recruitment – to help us source employment opportunities for our participants with more specialist skills; one individual has two Master’s Degrees, for example, and we want to make sure that everyone we’re working with is applying for work appropriate to their skills and experience.”
Since Reed in Partnership launched the Rapid Employment and Settlement Support service, more than 20 Afghan refugees have so far either become employed, or have received job offers that are pending a start date.
More than 60 participants now have their National Insurance Number, and 53 have attended specialist Interview Skills and/or Effective Job Searching training. Eleven people have now secured permanent housing.
Reed in Partnership and the BBC continue to work together in supporting people evacuated from the conflict in Afghanistan.