Refugee architects face multiple obstacles to continuing their career in the UK. Social enterprise Renaisi is offering practical support to refugees restarting their careers and calls on practices to take a more inclusive approach to recruitment in 2022.


Renaisi is a social enterprise. Our aim is to create strong inclusive communities, and that requires a more inclusive labour market. Transitions is our service designed to restart the careers of refugee professionals including architects from Afghanistan, Syria and Iran. They are qualified, have many years of experience working as architects in their home countries and speak excellent English.

Most of our candidates have fled or are unable to return to their home countries due to war, conflict, or fear of persecution. If their application for asylum is approved, they acquire refugee status which means they have permission to work in the UK. However, the current system overseen by the ARB means that they are unable to register and work as architects.

This is not the only barrier they face. Employers are put off by lengthy unexplained career gaps, lack of UK experience and a common misconception athat they will need to organise visas and sponsorship. As a result experienced architects, like so many refugee professionals, face long-term unemployment or end up working in low skilled jobs unrelated to their qualifications, experience, or ambitions.


Listen to Hannah Brooke in conversation with Syrian architect Sheghaf Abo Saleh and AT editor Isabel Allen

The ARB will be updating its international routes to registration to address the fact that they do not currently recognise qualifications from non-EU countries. Proposals include the creation of  Memorandum Of Understandings (MOU) and Mutual Recognition Agreements (MRA) with countries outside of the EU. However, there is zero likelihood of establishing an MOU/MRA with bodies in war torn countries, where there is minimal or no governmental engagement and a general lack of stability.

The alternative ARB prescribed examination route is not part of the current consultation and as it currently stands presents multiple barriers to refugees. Firstly, refugees from war torn countries have limited or no access to references, portfolios and other documentation required. Secondly, the system favours those who are well versed in how to best present themselves and their work in a UK context. Prohibitive fees and lack of access to the latest software to update portfolios compound the systemic bias.

Renaisi is collaborating with Professor Stephen Brookhouse to host an online session with past and present Transitions candidates to explain the role of RIBA, ARB and the routes to registration. We will take the opportunity to capture participants lived experience and feed it into the consultation, so their voice is heard by the ARB.

Our aim is for barriers that marginalise refugees to be dismantled and for the built environment sector to take a more inclusive approach to hiring and investing in global talent. Practices have a crucial role to play. If you are recruiting in 2022 please consider getting in touch.  A diverse workforce delivers clear business benefits. And meaningful employment is essential for anyone trying to rebuild their life.

For further information contact

Hannah Brooke is Transitions Sector Engagement Manager at Renaisi