Linking local and migrant communities in Scotland

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On 16 February 2015, the day before Shrove Tuesday, roundtable participants gathered for a third time in the rooms of the Scottish Universities Insight Institute (SUII) on Strathclyde Campus to discuss integration processes between Scottish communities and newcomers from Eastern and East Central Europe.

Hosted by SUII and organised by Prof. Karin Friedrich, as were two previous events that drew crowds in Aberdeen and Glasgow on the topic of Linking Northers Communities socially, culturally and economically: East European Migration to Scotland, this third roundtable branched out from its focus on Polish migrants to other East European groups that recently settled in Scotland, including Lithuanians, Slovaks and Roma. The assembled experts represented a wide range of professional experience, from the small business experience of tea-room ownership, to social work in Edinburgh, a high-flying career in banking, mental health support work, and academia: literature, sociology, social anthropology and history (…)

Anna Ruszel, holder of the Women Entrepreneurship Ambassador Award 2014, who works for risk management at RBS in Edinburgh and is a co-founder of the Polish Professional Forum (PPF), knows much about the frustrations of well-qualified people who arrive in Scotland. It is for them that she set up PPF to help newcomers from a professional background to establish networks and advance their careers. The cosmopolitan outlook of these ‘makers and shakers’, who often have studied abroad, are already fluent in English and other non-native languages and flourish in big companies, however, is not won overnight. Anna told us of many East Europeans’ tendency to take failure very personally, and to feel it a stigma to be considered a ‘migrant’. She emphasised the importance of mentoring, which provided her in the end with a similar insight to Martin: that success needs to be measured individually. Kasia Zalewska, who is part of Edinburgh Council’s social work, pointed out that not just language but communication itself, the clash of different expectations and social cultures of communication form barriers to easy integration. The inability to express emotions in another language often leads to a lack of engagement by the newcomers with the support that is offered.

Entry as posted on Glasgow Refugee Asylum and Migration Network (GRAMNet) on 9th March 2015, by Karin Friedrich.