Welcome For Syrian Refugees 'Will Be Positive'

17 November 2015, 17:49

Syrian refugees arriving in Scotland can expect a largely positive welcome and the local authorities taking them in are up to the "massive'' challenge of meeting their needs, according to an expert.

Dr Teresa Piacentini said there is a political will across Scotland from the "top-down and bottom-up'' to work to help those coming to the UK from refugee camps surrounding the war-torn state.

She said that while there has been a "waning'' in some respects of public support for refugees in the last couple of months, "overwhelmingly the welcome will be positive''.

Dr Piacentini, a sociologist at the University of Glasgow, said the refugees coming to the UK will need help in lots of different ways.

She said: "They're going to need some very basic orientation support about finding their feet.

"It's a really important part of starting to feel that you're belonging and settling somewhere, basic information about where to go for different service and how to get around a city or a town.

"Then there's obviously going to be a huge need for healthcare, factoring in the trauma of having lived in a refugee camp and the trauma of travelling across the world to a new place against a backdrop of some very negative politicking around Syrian refugees generally.

"There are specific health needs that people may have - the emotional and mental health, as well as physical health.''

Refugees will also need support around interpretation services and education for their children, she added.

"It's (a) massive (challenge),'' she told Press Association Scotland.

"I think what we're seeing is certainly a will for these local authorities to be up for this challenge, and that's really important.

"I think the councils will be up for it because they have extended this welcome and they're saying 'we're prepared, we're trying to prepare and we're going to learn as we go along'.''

As for attitudes among the wider public, Dr Piacentini has detected a slight change in levels of support in recent weeks.

"I think there has been a waning in some respects of support for refugees generally, certainly since September,'' she said.

"I think we can see that there is some evidence on social media about the amount of attention that the refugee situation is getting, So I think there has been a waning of public opinion, unfortunately.''

But she said: "I think that overwhelmingly the welcome will be positive and, in my mind anyway, a large part of that is due to the political will to support this resettlement programme in Scotland. That's really, really important, it's critical to the success.''