A wet but hearty welcome as first refugees arrive in Scotland
Kirsteen Paterson, The National
They arrived in the rain and cold, touching down on Scottish tarmac under thick grey clouds. But although the sun failed to shine on the first Syrian refugees brought to UK under a Westminster resettlement scheme, Scotland pledged to give them a warm welcome.
International development minister Humza Yousaf said it was a “proud day” for the country, adding: “I would like to extend the warmest of welcomes on behalf of the people of Scotland to the refugees who arrived in our beautiful country today, and wish them all the best as they start their new lives here.
“The response has been amazing so far. There are people from all walks of life in different parts of Scotland wanting to do what they can to help.
“There are many groups and organisations already taking practical steps and we really welcome this enthusiasm and energy.
“We have been overwhelmed with practical offers of support from ordinary people across Scotland all wanting to help alleviate the suffering of the vulnerable people caught up in this humanitarian emergency.”
The charter flight carrying about 100 displaced people from UN-registered camps surrounding the conflict-riven state landed at Glasgow Airport at 3.30pm yesterday, after a six-hour flight from Beirut.
Several more will arrive at UK airports in the coming months as part of a Westminster programme to take 20,000 people.
Of the 1,000 Syrians to be brought to the UK by Christmas, about one-third will come to Scotland, receiving five-year visas, with the prospect of extending them when that time is up.
Anti-racist campaigners planning to welcome these adopted Scots were advised not to gather at the airport’s international arrivals terminal yesterday, amid concerns about exposing the refugees to the public glare.
Glasgow Airport issued a statement confirming the refugees, who underwent security checks before being selected for the scheme, would be processed away from other travellers and taken privately from the transport hub to their new accommodation.
Yousaf said it was important to protect the “privacy and security of vulnerable people” and it was unclear where yesterday’s arrivals were being accommodated.
On social media, Scots using hashtags like #scotlandwelcomesrefugees pledged their support.
Fuad Alkbarov, organiser of the Refugees Welcome Here rally to be held in Glasgow on Saturday, November 28, tweeted: “Fàilte gu Alba (#WelcomeToScotland) to all #refugees. Proud of my country, my nation for showing the world how things should be done.”
Meanwhile, folk singer Eilidh Grant said: “I hope you only experience kindness here. Sorry about the rain.”
Gary Christie, of the Scottish Refugee Council, said the goodwill expressed would be key to successful resettlements.
He said: “The sense that people from all walks of life are pulling together and ready to do what they can to help refugees will be crucial in helping the new Syrian families feel human again and begin to see and achieve a future for themselves.”
Meanwhile, one Syrian man already seeking protection in Scotland, who did not want to be named, said: “To be a refugee is not a choice; it is a decision based on our human instinct to survive.
“No-one wants to be a refugee. I wish I was in Syria, in my home town, with my wife and family. I am a man, I am a husband, I am a son, brother, and cousin.
I am a professional with skills and expertise to offer.
“I am Syrian. I am not just a refugee. I am not a statistic. And I am certainly not a burden.”
Source: The National