New Strategy Devised To Ensure Warm Welcome For Refugees

2 November 2016, 11:37 | Updated: 2 November 2016, 12:12

A new scheme to welcome refugees to Scotland is being developed by the Government, councils and charities.

Equalities Secretary Angela Constance said there would be an open discussion with refugees, local authorities, the public and third sector ahead of the new strategy being introduced next year.

The current strategy, New Scots 2014 - 2017, has enabled the integration of all new refugees in Scottish communities and demonstrated the nation's response to the refugee crisis.

Following a visit to Maryhill Integration Network on Wednesday to meet families helped by the Syrian resettlement programme this year, Ms Constance said: "Scotland has a long history of welcoming refugees and asylum seekers from all over the world.

"This country's response to the humanitarian crisis in Syria has been phenomenal - we have welcomed almost 1,200 refugees through the Syrian resettlement programme.

"We are acutely aware there have been dramatic global changes since the launch of the New Scots strategy in 2013. The war in Syria and instability in other areas around the world have escalated the crisis that we cannot ignore.

"Over the past three years, the Scottish Government, (councils body) Cosla and the Scottish Refugee Council have worked together, crucially with the contribution of asylum seekers and refugees, to ensure the best possible approach to welcoming refugees.

"This new strategy will allow us to continue to provide a warm welcome to those seeking protection, safety and security.''

Alison Strang, senior research fellow at the Institute for Global Health and Development at Queen Margaret University, said it had been "hugely encouraging'' that people and organisations have given a warm welcome to refugees.

She said: "High levels of commitment to respond to the needs of Syrian refugees arriving in Scotland have enabled these families to settle quickly into housing, health and social care and education.

"It is important we continue to consolidate these improvements to welfare systems, and to ensure all people with refugee status in this country receive appropriate and prompt support.''

Wafa Shaheen, head of services at the Scottish Refugee Council, said refugees had been able to build a new life and realise their full potential after an ``amazing response'' to the humanitarian crisis.

"Scotland has welcomed Syrian families across the breadth of our country and has continued to provide sanctuary to men, women and children fleeing other conflicts and human rights abuses across the world,'' she said.

"In light of developments, it is right that we take stock and revision a new strategy to guarantee that no matter where they arrive in Scotland, refugees are supported to access appropriate services, achieve their rights, build social connections and become active members of their new communities.''

Harry McGuigan, Cosla's spokesman for community wellbeing, said: "The new strategy will reflect work that is going on across the country and will bring a Scotland-wide focus to refugee integration.''