Councils Ready To Help In Refugee Crisis

8 September 2015, 19:37 | Updated: 8 September 2015, 19:40

The majority of Scotland's 32 councils have said they are willing to take in refugees affected by the humanitarian crisis in southern Europe.

The first meeting of a refugee taskforce set up by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon heard that local government representative body Cosla has had an "overwhelming, unprecedented response'' from local authorities making their initial inquires.

The taskforce also announced the creation of an online hub to direct members of the public to information about how they can donate or register their willingness to help refugees.

Prime Minister David Cameron yesterday announced that Britain is to resettle up to 20,000 refugees from Syria over the next four and a half years.

During an emergency summit convened in Edinburgh on Friday, Ms Sturgeon said Scotland stands ready to take at least 1,000 new refugees as an immediate priority.

Speaking after today's meeting, Europe minister Humza Yousaf said: "We have repeatedly made clear that Scotland stands ready to play its part and take a fair share of refugees to help some of the most vulnerable people in need.

"Today's taskforce considered the immediate, practical actions we can take to help.

"In the first instance we are working with councils across Scotland to identify capacity to accommodate refugees and what services we will need to put in place to support families to start a new life in safety in Scotland.

"It is very encouraging to hear that the majority of councils have indicated a willingness to accommodate refugees - we will now build on this positive response and ensure the appropriate support and integration services are put in place.

"We have seen overwhelming support for refugees through social media and other means - and the online resources we are developing will help to signpost people to information about the practical steps they can take to help.

"We expect this will go live in the coming days.''

The operational taskforce brings together Scottish ministers, the Scottish Refugee Council, the UK Government, local government and key stakeholders to co-ordinate Scotland's humanitarian and practical response.

Its first meeting today considered issues including housing, health services, language support and social services for refugees.

Argyll and Bute Council said that at least 20 refugees will be offered housing and support, with the possibility of more in the future.

Council leader Dick Walsh said: "We have a moral duty to help. We cannot sit back and do nothing while these poor people try desperately to escape war torn countries, risking their lives and their family's lives in the process.''