1,000 Syrian refugees welcomed to Scotland

Councillor O’Neill and Ms Constance chat to Syrian refugees during a visit to The Welcoming
Councillor O’Neill and Ms Constance chat to Syrian refugees during a visit to The Welcoming

Equalities secretary Angela Constance and President of COSLA Councillor David O’Neill have praised the efforts of communities and councils across Scotland after confirming that more than 1,000 Syrian refugees have settled in the country.

The milestone was reached following the safe arrival of a further 120 refugees to Scotland in the last week.

It comes in the run-up to the first anniversary of the Refugee Summit, which met in September last year to consider Scotland’s response to the refugee crisis.

Following the summit, a taskforce was established to help address immediate practical needs such as the opening of bank accounts and applying for residence permits, as well as considering longer term integration issues like ensuring people can learn English.

This work has helped more than 1,000 refugees successfully settle in 29 local authorities since October 2015 – around a third of the refugees that have settled in the UK through the government’s Syrian Resettlement Programme.

Last week the Scottish Refugee Council issued an updated guide to housing professionals to ensure that the rights of all refugees and asylum seekers to quality accommodation is upheld.

The milestone was announced during a visit to The Welcoming, an Edinburgh project that provides English language lessons to refugees, as part of the City of Edinburgh’s response to the Syrian resettlement project.

Ms Constance 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 new homes and readjust to life in different 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 organisations to ensure that the right support is in place.

“As we approach the first anniversary of the Refugee Summit, it’s important to recognise the progress we’ve made and the challenges still ahead. We will continue to work to overcome any barriers to education and opportunities to work, and will tackle health, housing and social security inequalities. We will do all we can to ensure refugees have happy and productive new lives in Scotland.”

Councillor O’Neill said: “Scotland’s councils have had a long and proud history of both protecting, and delivering services to, some of the most vulnerable people in communities throughout Scotland. As President of COSLA it makes me immensely proud that this track record is now being extended to include some of the most vulnerable people from across the globe – and the way our communities have rallied round to welcome their fellow citizens.

“Councils and communities have made incredible efforts to ensure a smooth welcome for our friends from Syria. We will continue to work with Scottish Government and communities to tackle any issues faced by refugees or concerns that they have and do all that we can to assist them in their new lives.”

Jon Busby, the director of The Welcoming, added: “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. This is part of the City of Edinburgh Council’s Syrian Refugee Resettlement Programme which includes the Community Learning Development ESOL Programme and Saheliya.”

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