Scotland 'Ready For Refugees'

15 September 2015, 17:09

Scotland will take a proportionate share of the refugees brought to the UK from camps on the borders of Syria, external affairs minister Humza Yousaf has told Holyrood.

He said the figure of 1,000 refugees quoted by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon at a recent summit on the refugee crisis represented the number Scotland should immediately accept and was not a cap or limit on those who would be welcomed.

The Prime Minister has said the UK will take 20,000 refugees from camps over the next five years. Scotland's proportionate population share of that number would be around 2,000.

Pressure to admit more refugees has grown since the publication of photographs of three-year-old Aylan Kurdi, who drowned trying to cross from Turkey to Greece by boat.

David Cameron has said the UK would not be involved in any European Union (EU) refugee quota system or help with the thousands of refugees already in Europe.

Speaking during a debate at Holyrood, Mr Yousaf said: "While the expansion of the scheme is very welcome, we do believe that the UK must do more than this.

"The figure of 20,000 refugees over five years should not be seen as a cap or an upper limit.

"We believe the UK should play its part in responding to crisis on the southern European coast.

"Now, as for Scotland, the figure of 1,000 refugees mentioned by the First Minister on Friday September 4 was a response to how many refugees we should immediately accept.

"It should in no way be seen as a limit or an upper cap at all. Let me be clear, whatever figure the UK Government proposes, we in Scotland will take and are prepared to take a proportionate share.''

Mr Yousaf said Scotland's operational taskforce was establishing capacity across key services in preparation for refugees while the majority of councils have indicated willingness to accommodate those seeking asylum.

A website has also been set up as a focal point for anyone wanting to donate time, skills, goods, accommodation or other practical help to those arriving in Scotland.

Mr Yousaf said: "There are no easy solutions but we all have a responsibility as human beings to recognise the extent of the crisis and do something about it. Doing nothing is simply not an option.''

Labour's Claire Baker agreed the UK Government's response to the crisis was "not enough''.

"The UK Government must reconsider its refusal to participate in the EU reallocation scheme and it's important that we as a Parliament should continue to apply pressure on this issue,'' she said.

Conservative MSP John Lamont said: "It is unfair to accuse the UK Government of lacking compassion based purely on the number of people allowed to stay in the UK.

"While it is correct that the UK is taking in more refugees, this is only part of the solution in an increasingly difficult and desperate humanitarian crisis.''

Mr Lamont said it was "absolutely right that we should be prioritising those in camps'' while those refugees who have reached Europe are in a "relatively safe place'' by comparison.