£1M For Refugee Crisis Response

6 September 2015, 07:07 | Updated: 6 September 2015, 07:09

Initial funding of £1 million is being made available to help with Scotland's response to the refugee crisis, the Scottish Government has announced.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon confirmed the cash is being made available to help the taskforce that has already been set up by ministers.

It comes in the wake of an emergency summit, chaired by the First Minister, which brought together political leaders, religious groups, humanitarian organisations and wider civic Scotland, to discuss what could be done to help those fleeing Syria and other nations for safety in Europe.

The First Minister has already said Scotland should accept 1,000 people as a ''starting point'' for further help.

She said: ''The heartbreaking scenes of desperate people fleeing their homes and looking for refuge in Europe have touched many people in Scotland and I know that there is great support across the country for us to play our part in offering what help we can.

''During the humanitarian summit I convened on Friday, we heard the personal testimony of those who escaped persecution or war and have now been welcomed in Scotland and made to feel part of the community. Their stories are inspirational and I hope that the steps we are now taking can help many more refugees like them make a better life for their families.''

Ms Sturgeon continued: ''After that summit I announced that the steps required for us to accommodate our fair share of refugees would be examined and co-ordinated by a taskforce, which will begin work this week establishing Scotland's capacity in a range of important areas such as housing and health services.

''It will also have a crucial role in harnessing the goodwill that exists in Scotland and turning that into practical help for those in distress.

''Today I am pleased to confirm that the work of that taskforce will be supported by an initial £1 million in Scottish Government funding. This initial funding will ensure that the frontline organisations who will help refugees integrate into Scotland will have resources to carry out their work. We will consider what further support is required as the taskforce progresses its work..''

She spoke out as a leading member of the Catholic Church in Scotland argued the UK needs to be ''generous in providing a safe haven'' for refugees.

Archbishop Philip Tartaglia, the Archbishop of Glasgow, criticised the ``mean-spirited and unhelpful'' approach Britain has adopted so far, as he urged: ``It is time to open our hearts and borders.''

In the face of intense political pressure, Prime Minister David Cameron pledged the UK would resettle ''thousands more'' people from the refugee camps in the countries bordering Syria.

The archbishop said that was a ''welcome but vague promise to allow in more desperate people fleeing chaos'' but he said the Conservative leader ``appeared to offer no hope to those who have already reached Europe''.

In an article in The Herald newspaper he said the ''poignant horror'' of images of the three-year-old Syrian child Aylan Kurdi washed up dead on the shore of a Turkish beach had helped ''bring our society to its senses''.

The archbishop stated: ''In my view the refugees crisis is a test, not of political shrewdness, but of common humanity. What is happening in the Mediterranean, Calais and other access points is an affront to human dignity.

''The UK should be generous in providing a safe haven for refugees and asylum seekers; Britain's policy in the Mediterranean of rescue and deposit elsewhere is mean-spirited and unhelpful to the nations who are bearing the brunt of the migrations - especially Italy and Greece.''

Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale welcomed the funding announcement from the Scottish Government, stating: ''This week, Scotland watched in horror at the tragedy unfolding across Europe, and then spoke with one voice to say that refugees are welcome.

''From Westminster to Holyrood to our council chambers, that rare thing has broken out amongst politicians - consensus.

''Scottish Labour is using the full strength of our movement. Thousands of activists across the country are doing their bit whilst our MSPs are turning their constituency offices into drop-off points for donations.

''The labour movement has a proud history of working to welcome refugees, and so do the people of Scotland and the UK who, throughout history, have welcomed people fleeing for their lives. People who have, in turn, enriched our national life.''