When we started talking about the BIMA Bridge council, it was in response to the invasion of Ukraine. Businesses across the UK, and throughout the BIMA membership were asking themselves how they could help people who were forced to flee their homes. We wanted to collate job opportunities and helpful information in ways that would help.
The aim of the council is to help BIMA members (and any other businesses that are interested!) respond supportively and helpfully to the plight of people arriving in the UK having fled their homes. And while it was inspired by the situation in Ukraine, we are committed to making sure that our response is of benefit to people seeking sanctuary from all backgrounds.
The council was launched this year, and we have been working with national and local charities. While progress at times feels slow, some of the things we have achieved include:
The idea is that we as employers can make a huge difference to the lives of people as they settle into our local communities. And we in turn can benefit from the experience and fresh ideas being brought into our businesses.
Many of us offer graduate schemes, which help people as they leave education to get a footing in the world of employment. They often involve additional training, mentorship, and general understanding that the employee is on a journey of learning about the industry. We believe it will be possible to create similar schemes for people arriving as refugees and through the asylum-seeking system.
The Council is launching a dedicated BIMA Bridge recruitment platform, on which employers can advertise roles to share with local charities serving refugee communities. We are looking at how we can extend in-house training schemes to be available to people to access through those charities, and we are also aiming to put together ‘blueprints’ for how agencies (or other businesses) can be good employers to those with refugee status.
Since we started this work, everything around the asylum process has become remarkably politicised – with the phrase ‘small boats’ often functioning as a dog whistle, and a relentless list of dehumanising, uncaring and intentionally hurtful policies rolled out, all in the name of the ‘hostile environment’. People who have lost everything are being punished for a broken system.
The companies who have signed up to BIMA Bridge are not in this for ‘politics’, but to think about the role that we can play as leaders in our communities to offer opportunities, and support people who have been through incredibly challenging journeys.
But the truth is that it’s impossible to be a-political in this space. We are seeing how incredibly stretched the charities are, how the policies spread fear amongst and stir up animosity towards people who have often lost everything already.
While what we’re doing is just a drop in the ocean, reaching out and looking for ways to help is already a step in the right direction.
As Refugee Week rolls around, we welcome anyone who would like to find out more, or join us in our work.