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Scotland stands ready to welcome refugees

Published: 13 Sep 2015 00:01

UN Praise for Scotland’s Response to Refugee Crisis.

Scotland's Minister for Europe has welcomed the huge surge of solidarity with the men women and children caught up in this refugee crisis, as the overwhelming offers of support continue to pour in from across Scotland.

The country stands ready to take its immediate fair share of refugees from the current crisis with the majority of Scotland's councils, faith groups, community organisations, schools and ordinary citizens offering to help.

Following on from the first meeting of the refugee operation taskforce earlier this week and calling on the UK Government to opt in to the latest EU Refugee relocation scheme, Mr Yousaf, Minister for Europe and International Development, said:

"I welcome the UNHCR's warm words for Scotland's response to the global refugee crisis. Scotland is a welcoming country and we stand ready to take our fair share of refugees caught up in this current crisis. The First Minister has made very clear that 1,000 refugees coming to Scotland should be seen as an absolute minimum and very much an initial, immediate figure – it is not a cap or a limit but a starting point for a meaningful discussion about how much we can practically contribute.

"Through the Refugee Operation Task Force, we are working with local government and a wide range of stakeholders to ensure services across Scotland are ready to welcome refugees into our communities.

"The Prime Minister's announcement of 20,000 refugees from camps neighbouring Syria by 2020 is too little and will, tragically, in some cases be too late. We have repeatedly urged the UK Government to do more to urgently address this humanitarian crisis, and made clear that Scotland stands ready to accept its fair share of refugees.

"We welcome Ireland's decision to opt into President Juncker's expanded EU-wide relocation scheme and call on the Prime Minister to follow the Irish example and also opt in to help our neighbours and European partners cope with this humanitarian crisis. The UK has a moral obligation to help some of the most vulnerable people that are coming to Europe seeking protection. We cannot turn our back on innocent men, women and children.

"As we continue to see the images of distressed families, we have seen huge offers of support coming in from across Scotland's various organisations, from the Scottish Human Rights commission to churches, faith groups, community groups, charities and ordinary people all of them wanting to help in any way that they can.

"It will be this collective response and level of compassion that defines Scotland's reaction to this human catastrophe."

The Scottish Government's response in setting up a taskforce and the widespread offer of help for those most in need has also been welcomed by the United Nations

Refugee Agency the UNHCR. Gonzalo Vargas Llosa, UNHCR Representative to the UK said:

"UNHCR welcomes the important expansion of the UK's resettlement programme for Syrian refugees announced earlier this week. Scotland has a long, proud and rich tradition of welcoming refugees. UNHCR, the UN refugee agency, recognises the leadership of the Scottish Government in establishing a task force to look at this humanitarian crisis.

"The Scottish people have had a strong track record in welcoming refugees into a safe and caring environment. The emphasis on access to language learning, housing, employment and family reunification has played a vital role in successful integration of those who have fled conflict and persecution. Such an approach allows refugees to rebuild their lives and empowers them to make positive contributions to their new communities.

"Through the work of the newly established task force we are confident that this work will continue as Scotland asserts its readiness to take many of the vulnerable Syrian refugees - soon to be resettled to the UK - as an immediate priority."

Supporting the Scottish Government's call for the UK to opt-in to the EU wide resettlement and relocation scheme, Professor Alan Miller, Chair of the Scottish Human Rights Commission, said:

"Europe is experiencing its gravest humanitarian crisis for over 60 years. With each day that passes there are more lives lost and there is an urgent need for immediate action.

"On Friday, as Chair of the European Network of National Human Rights Institutions, I issued an open letter calling upon all of our members within the EU to impress upon their governments the urgent need to uphold their human rights responsibilities in full towards the refugees. This can immediately be done on Monday at the Extraordinary Council of EU Interior Ministers through supporting the proposed EU coordinated humanitarian response.

"We fully support the Scottish Government's call for the UK Government to join this coordinated EU-wide response of providing safety, support and relocation for the refugees arriving at Europe's borders. People in Scotland are clearly demonstrating a collective will to do what we can to provide refuge for those who have fled war and persecution. People who have arrived at Europe's border after perilous journeys, often at the mercy of people traffickers, not only deserve our help and support – they have a human right to it and to seek asylum."

The Scottish Government has been working closely with the Scottish Refugee Council .Gary Christie, Head of Policy and Communications at Scottish Refugee Council, said:

"Here at Scottish Refugee Council we have been overwhelmed in recent weeks by people's kindness, generosity and humanity. It's humbling to hear so many voices raised in support of those who are forced to flee their homes and make extreme and perilous journeys over thousands of miles.

"Scots are also offering a wealth of practical help, as well as opening the doors of their own homes. Children are writing to refugee children to send them gifts and wishes of safety. There has been real recognition that refugees are just ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances. Scotland can be proud of the support it has shown and continues to show. It has offered a heartfelt welcome to those in need."