Government celebrates welcoming 1,000 Syrian refugees to Scotland


The arrival of 120 refugees in Scotland over the last week takes overall tally to 1,000

GROUPS involved in supporting new refugees to Scotland have said they are “proud” of progress made after figures revealed 1,000 people from Syria have been resettled in the past year. 

The Scottish Government, local council group Cosla and education group The Welcoming gathered to recognise the landmark a year since public outrage over the crisis led to demands for greater political action. 

Minister for Equalities Angela Constance MSP today [Thursday 1 September] met with new refugees to Scotland as they took part in a community lessons in the English language. This week a further 120 refugees from Syria were resettled in Scotland, taking the total over 1,000. 

“We will continue to urge the UK Government to accept more refugees.” Angela Constance MSP

The bloody civil war in Syria has displaced millions of people, with hundreds of thousands seeking safe passage to European countries. The UK Government agreed to accept 20,000 refugees over five years, 10 per cent of which will be welcomed to Scotland. 

Constance, recognising the development of the resettlement programme, said: “By welcoming a further 120 refugees to Scotland in the last week I am proud to say we have now provided safety and sanctuary to more than 1,000 Syrian refugees. 

“From day one we have been clear in our commitment to accepting a fair and proportionate share of the refugees coming to the UK and will play our part in welcoming them to Scotland. We will continue to urge the UK Government to accept more refugees. 

“Over the last year we have been working closely with Cosla and local authorities to help refugees settle into safe and new homes and readjust to life in difficult climates and communities.

“It’s been fantastic to see people extend the warm hands of friendship to their new neighbours. However, integration is a long-term process, and local authorities have been working in partnership with third sector and community organisation to ensure that the right support is in place.”

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Almost every single council in Scotland has contributed to the resettlement effort, which includes coordinating housing and social services support. 

The Welcoming, an education support group in Edinburgh, provides language and skills classes for people new to the city from overseas. Cosla president David O’Neill and Constance met with its director, Jon Busby, to discuss community support.

Busby explained: “This visit is a great opportunity for the Welcoming to demonstrate the way that it works to support and befriend thousands of migrants and refugees that arrive in Edinburgh every year by helping them to start new lives and make Scotland their new home.

“The Welcoming delivers this through an all year round, open-door and immediate start English language for social and cultural integration programme.”

The picture of Alan Kurdi, a three-year-old Kurdish refugee fleeing violence in Syria who was washed up dead on a Turkish beach in September 2015, prompted thousands of campaigners in Scotland to organise, donate and protest in favour of welcoming refugees. 

Eventually the UK Government initiated the resettlement programme. However, the past year has also witnessed various scandals over the treatment of refugees by the UK Home Office – included allegations of abuse by private housing contractors, and further dawn raids to deport refugee applicants.

Coinciding with the 1,000 refugee milestone, Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale called for a Refugee Integration Bill to set out refugees’ rights to access services in Scots law. 

Picture courtesy of Takver

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