Flight With Syrian Refugees Arrives In Glasgow

17 November 2015, 17:53 | Updated: 17 November 2015, 18:07

The first charter flight bringing Syrian refugees to the UK has touched down at Glasgow Airport.

A plane, believed to be carrying about 100 people from camps surrounding the war-torn Middle East state, landed at around 3.40pm today.

Several more special flights will arrive at airports around Britain in the coming months as part of a programme to take 20,000 refugees.

The arrivals come after it emerged that at least one of the attackers in the Paris atrocity is believed to have entered Europe through Greece posing as a refugee from Syria.

At the weekend, Home Secretary Theresa May said those who arrive in the UK from the region will have been thoroughly screened to ensure they do not pose a terrorist threat.

She said multiple checks are in place for those earmarked for relocation in Britain.

"There are two levels of screening that take place,''.

"First of all, we are taking people directly from the camps. We are working with UNHCR - UNHCR take biometrics, they look at documents, they interview people, they do their own process of screening against issues like war crimes and serious criminality.

"Then there is a further check that is done once people are referred to the UK. The Home Office then undertakes further checks, further biometrics are taken.''

A "steady stream'' of refugees have already come to the UK since the scheme was announced in September but the start of special charter flights is described as a "step change''.

New arrivals will be given a five-year visa allowing them to remain in the country, after which they will be able to apply for leave to remain.

Downing Street refused to specify how many refugees were arriving today but said they had undergone "rigorous'' security checks before boarding the plane.

A spokesman said it would be "reasonable to assume'' the refugees would go to areas within a "reasonable radius'' of Glasgow.

Scotland's Minister for Europe and International Development Humza Yousaf said: "This is a proud day for Scotland. I would like to extend the warmest of welcomes on behalf of the people of Scotland to the Syrian refugees who have arrived in Glasgow today, and wish them all the best as they are supported to start their new lives here.

"These people have fled terror and tyranny and are some of the most vulnerable among those affected by conflict in Syria. They have arrived directly from refugee camps and we have been working closely with the Home Office who have robust and thorough security screening processes in place. They will now travel to a number of communities across Scotland.

"The practical offers of support from ordinary people across Scotland who want to help alleviate the suffering of the vulnerable people caught up in this humanitarian emergency has been overwhelming.

"I would like to offer my sincere thanks to all the partners that have worked tirelessly over the past few weeks to make the necessary arrangements for the arrivals. We will continue to have an important role to play in helping these refugees settle into their new lives in Scotland.''

The flight left Amman, Jordan, this morning and stopped at Beirut on the way to the UK.

Refugees were met by representatives of five Scottish local authorities who will help them settle.

Richard Harrington, Minister for Syrian Refugees, said: "Today's arrivals are a landmark moment for the vulnerable persons' resettlement scheme and the result of great collaboration between the Government, the UNHCR, local authorities and the devolved administrations.

"These vulnerable people will now have the chance to rebuild their lives in safe and secure surroundings, among supportive communities in the UK.

"Over the coming weeks we will provide refuge to hundreds more people who have been forced from their homes because of civil unrest, persecution and war.''

David Cameron announced at the start of September that Britain would "live up to its moral responsibility'' by taking 20,000 refugees from the camps on the borders of Syria by the end of the current parliament in 2020.

The move came in the wake of a public outcry over the fate of Syrians driven to attempt to make the perilous crossing of the Mediterranean by boat, following the publication of pictures of three-year-old Aylan Kurdi who drowned with several family members as they tried to reach Greece from Turkey.

Last month the Prime Minister set out a target to bring 1,000 people displaced to countries around Syria to Britain by Christmas.

The Home Office has confirmed offers of support from more than 45 councils, while talks are continuing with dozens more.

There have been calls in some quarters for the UK to accept more refugees. More than 300 lawyers including senior former judges signed a statement describing the response to the crisis as "deeply inadequate''.

Meanwhile, MPs have raised doubts over whether Britain is prepared for the initiative.

In a report last month the Commons Home Affairs Committee said of the annual average needed to meet the 20,000 pledge: ``At no point in the recent past has the UK come near to resettling 4,000 refugees in one year.''