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First Minister establishes taskforce to co-ordinate refugee action.
An operational taskforce is to be established to co-ordinate Scotland's practical response to the humanitarian refugee crisis following a summit convened by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon in Edinburgh today.
The First Minister said Scotland stands ready to welcome refugees, as she confirmed that the task force would urgently engage organisations across Scotland to establish capacity in a range of matters such as housing, health services, language support, transport and social services.
The First Minister announced that Europe and International Development Minister Humza Yousaf will chair the group, which will also examine how Scotland can harness the goodwill of the public in Scotland with many of the humanitarian organisations already reporting a huge number of offers of practical help from individuals and groups across the country.
Ms Sturgeon said that today's summit had been positive and productive with people who have sought sanctuary in Scotland invited to give their own personal testimonies about the practicalities of settling in a new country. She also confirmed that the discussions would be summarised and sent to the Prime Minister as part of a positive offer of support from Scotland as the UK responds to the migration crisis.
The First Minister said:
"I want, as First Minister, to ensure that Scotland is playing its part in dealing with this humanitarian crisis. Today's summit was a positive and productive first step with a sense that we as a nation have to step up and respond in a way that matches the scale of this tragedy.
"Scotland already has well established structures in place for integrating those who come here seeking asylum and we stand ready to welcome our fair share of people fleeing persecution. However, if we are to do this, there is no doubt that we do require a proper, co-ordinated approach.
"Today's summit was focused on looking at some of the practical issues involved and I have now established a task force to co-ordinate Scotland's response, working with local authorities, public agencies and third sector organisations to ensure that any refugees that come to Scotland will be able to integrate successfully. As a first step, I expect the task force to examine capacity in a range of services in Scotland, including housing, health and social services.
"The task force will also have a hugely important role in harnessing the many, many expressions of goodwill and offers of help from the public in Scotland, providing a focal point for that activity and ensuring that the wider Scottish community is able to play its part in welcoming people to our country."
The First Minister added:
"During the talks today there was real clarity expressed around the UK Government's need to play a part in a co-ordinated European response to the problem and agree to take a fair and proportionate share of refugees.
"We want to work constructively with the UK government and I welcome the additional steps that the Prime Minister has set out but there has to be much more detail given – for example we still don't know how many refugees he is talking about or whether these are just refugees from Syrian camps or those in Europe.
"There are not any easy solutions to this, but all of us have a responsibility as human beings to recognise the extent of this humanitarian crisis and resolve together to do something about it. If we all play our part then the totality of that response might just have a chance of dealing effectively with the problem."
The summit convened by the First Minister today was attended by a wide range of organisations from across civic Scotland. The full list of groups represented is as follows:
Afghan community; Amnesty International; British Red Cross; Catholic Church Bishops' Conference; Christian Aid; Church and Society Council; Church of Scotland; CoSLA; Edinburgh Churches for Sanctuary; Edinburgh City Council; Glasgow Campaign to Welcome Refugees; Glasgow City Council; Glasgow Girls; Mercy Corps; Muslim Council of Scotland; New Scots Refugee Integration Strategy Core Group; Oxfam; Refugee Women's Strategy Group; Save the Children; Scottish Catholic International Aid Fund; Scottish Human Rights Commission; Scottish Refugee Council; Scottish Trades Union Congress; Syrian community; Uniting Nations in Scotland.
The summit was also attended by Kezia Dugdale MSP, Ruth Davidson MSP, Willie Rennie MSP, Alison Johnstone MSP and Joanna Cherry MP.
Photographs of the summit, including images of the First Minister meeting representatives of the refugee community, can be found at https://www.flickr.com/photos/firstministerofscotland
The full text of the speech delivered by the First Minister at the beginning of the summit can be found here – http://news.scotland.gov.uk/Speeches-Briefings/First-Minister-Humanitarian-Summit-1ca4.aspx