Councils lauded for humanitarian efforts as Scotland welcomes 2000th Syrian refugee

Scotland’s local authorities have been praised for their work to provide a safe home for refugee families as the country marked the arrival of the 2000th refugee through the Syrian Resettlement Programme, three years ahead of schedule.

Supported by COSLA, Scottish councils have met their goal to resettle 10% of those refugees brought to the UK, just two years into the five-year programme.

Statistics released earlier this month showed that Scotland has accepted 20% of the Syrian refugees who have so far been brought to the UK through the UK government-funded initiative after fleeing the violence in Syria.

Those helped by the scheme include young children in urgent need of medical treatment and life-changing care who are now building new lives in every part of Scotland.

UK immigration minister Brandon Lewis joined First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and UK Representative to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees in COSLA’s Edinburgh HQ yesterday to celebrate these achievements and discuss the future of the programme.

COSLA’s President Councillor Alison Evison confirmed a local government commitment to councils continuing to take part in the voluntary programme over the next few years – a pledge to continue to help some of the most vulnerable families affected by the crisis.

Politicians from all 32 councils in Scotland have supported the decision to keep the voluntary scheme open, with further arrivals already expected in January and February.

Councillor Evison said: “Scottish local government has responded to its moral duty to help and protect those whose lives have been torn apart by war. We are proudly leading the way in our commitment to the Syrian Resettlement Programme.

“Council staff and communities across Scotland have truly gone the extra mile to reach the 2000 goal – working tirelessly to make all the preparations for their new arrivals, finding suitable homes, helping to settle children in to school and supporting adults to find employment.

“I am delighted to say our commitment does not stop with the initial goal that we set for ourselves at the start of Scotland’s involvement in the programme. As long as we are given the resources and support to do so, COSLA is prepared to continue to assist our councils so that more families can be brought to safety.”

Brandon Lewis said: “Scotland, along with the rest of the UK, should be proud of the way it has welcomed some of the most vulnerable refugees, and provided them with safety and security so that they can rebuild their lives.

“I am extremely grateful for the support that COSLA and the Scottish Government have given to the Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Scheme and Vulnerable Children’s Scheme so far and hope that this will continue as we move forward, on track, to meet our commitment to resettle 23,000 refugees in the UK by 2020.”

Nicola Sturgeon added: “Scotland is an open and welcoming country and today’s celebration, welcoming the 2,000th Syrian refugee to our country, is testament to that. In 2015 I made a commitment that we would take our fair share of Syrian refugees coming to the UK and the hard work and dedication of local authorities across Scotland has meant we have more than met that pledge.

“I am proud that Scotland has welcomed so many refugees fleeing persecution and war into our communities so they can rebuild their lives here.”

UK Representative to the UNHCR, Gonzalo Vargas Llosa, said: “Scotland has been a generous host to asylum seekers and refugees and today’s announcement that 2000 Syrians have been resettled to Scotland is a welcome development. At a time when more people have been forced from their homes than ever before, resettlement provides a lifeline out of danger and the chance for refugees to restart their lives in safety and dignity.”

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