The research presented here is based on a large scale, multi-methods study of refugees who have been resettled to the UK. We analyse quantitative data on language proficiency four or more years after resettlement to identify the key characteristics of those who are most likely to have low language proficiency and to be at risk of long term dependency and exclusion. Qualitative interviews on experiences of language learning suggest that English language policy and provision serves to exacerbate and compound the risk of social exclusion, rather than ameliorate the risk. Our findings draw attention to the lack of recognition and understanding of the diversity of resettled refugees and their differential capacities, needs and opportunities for learning. They also highlight the conflict between the policy goal of rapid entry into the labour market and the goal of language learning. These findings have clear implications for integration strategies and policy.