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Urgent refugee action required

Published: 21 Sep 2015 16:38

First Minister makes case for swift response direct to UK Government.

Scottish Government ministers have urged more immediate action to help the thousands of desperate people seeking sanctuary in southern Europe in a series of meetings in London and Brussels.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon met Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond in Whitehall, welcoming the UK Government's recent decision to take more refugees, but making the case that the UK must go further than it has, and in particular set out a clear timetable for meeting its current commitments.

International Development Minister Humza Yousaf also attended that meeting after holding talks with the UK Government's new Minister for Refugees, Richard Harrington, to discuss in detail the practical actions necessary to co-ordinate the arrival of refugees and set out the steps already taken by the Scottish Government's humanitarian task force.

And in Brussels, Deputy First Minister John Swinney restated Scotland's commitment to participating in the EU-wide co-ordinated action on refugees as part of a series of meetings with European Commissioners and the UK Permanent Representative to the EU.

The First Minister said:

"Scotland has a strong track record in welcoming those who have been forced to flee their homes due to war or persecution and we stand ready to help as many people as we can in the current crisis.

"While I welcome the UK Government's commitment to take in more refugees and pledge more aid, it is clear from the distressing scenes we continue to witness in Europe that we need to extend immediate help to more people and look to assist those already here.

"We cannot ignore those in need on our doorstep and I believe the UK should opt-in to the extended EU-wide relocation scheme announced by the EU President recently.

"I was able to make that case to the Foreign Secretary today, and restate my commitment that Scotland will take in a fair share of those who arrive in the UK looking for refuge. Our preparations are well underway, with the humanitarian task force set up to take forward our practical response due to meet again this week.

"Humza Yousaf, the minister responsible for that task force, also met with the new UK Minister for Refugees today and was able to share the intelligence, experience and expertise already identified as we begin to work together to plan for arrivals.

"And while Mr Yousaf and I made our case directly to the UK Government, the Deputy First Minister was in Brussels where he outlined Scotland's desire to participate in the EU-wide co-ordinated action on refugees that I believe is so desperately needed."

The First Minister met the Foreign Secretary in London today for the first time since the UK general election. As well as the refugee crisis, the talks covered the in/out EU referendum being proposed by the UK Government.

Notes to editors

The First Minister convened an emergency summit, bringing together a wide range of stakeholders, local authorities and refugees earlier this month. At that summit she announced a task force would be set up and chaired by Humza Yousaf: http://news.scotland.gov.uk/News/Scotland-responds-to-humanitarian-crisis-1ca3.aspx

The First Minister later announced £1 million to support the task force in its work to ensure that services across Scotland are prepared to deal with the arrival of refugees: http://news.scotland.gov.uk/News/Initial-1-million-to-support-humanitarian-taskforce-1ca6.aspx

The task force has now met twice, with a further meeting due this week.

A new website www.scotlandwelcomesrefugees.scot has been launched to help co-ordinate Scotland's response to the international refugee crisis.