Refugees are welcome in Scotland
Scotland has a long history of welcoming people of all nationalities and faiths, including those seeking refuge and asylum from war and persecution elsewhere.
Over successive generations, refugees have helped make Scotland the strong, successful and diverse country it is today.
As Communities Secretary, I have heard from people from across Scotland who have come here to seek sanctuary. In March, I met with refugees in Dundee during an ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) class and former students who had already completed Dundee City Council’s Get Ready For Work programme.
In May, I also met with refugees supported by Multi-Cultural Family Base in Edinburgh, who were keen to overcome the barriers they face to working in the construction industry.
It was great to see the innovative and practical support being provided across the country, and even better to hear first-hand from refugees who are now taking the next steps towards achieving their ambition of rebuilding their lives here in Scotland and participating in their new communities.
All of this has been possible thanks to the unique partnership formed between the Scottish Government, local authorities and many third sector organisations, community and faith groups, refugee-led community organisations, all of whom have dedicated themselves to welcoming and supporting refugees and asylum seekers in Scotland.
We all have a part to play in making sure refugees feel welcome in our country. Whilst it is nearly impossible to imagine the sadness and challenges they have faced in being forced to flee their homes, leaving loved ones behind, we should offer our compassion and solidarity.
Scotland’s New Scots refugee integration strategy is supporting refugees and people seeking asylum, as they rebuild their lives in Scotland. Our key principle is that integration and support begins from Day 1 of arrival.
New Scots set the framework for Scotland’s response to the humanitarian crisis arising from the conflict in Syria. Over 2,850 refugees have now arrived under the Syrian Resettlement programme into all 32 of our local authorities.
However, there remain many challenges, particularly with regard to navigating the UK asylum system. Vulnerable people who have fled the most harrowing circumstances can be left facing destitution and homelessness at the end of the process, which is utterly unacceptable. I will continue to call on the UK Government to adopt policies that treat people with dignity and respect at every stage of the asylum process, including by lifting the ban on asylum seekers working while their claim is processed.
Refugee Festival Scotland
World Refugee Day (20 June) marked the beginning of Refugee Festival Scotland 2019, where we celebrate the contribution that refugees and asylum seekers have made, and continue to make, to Scotland and our communities.
The theme of this year’s Festival is Making Art, Making Home, honouring the creativity and resilience of refugees and people seeking asylum, and reminding us of the important role art and culture play in breaking down barriers and building friendships.
The variety of events taking place across Scotland promise fun for all ages, but they also challenge us to consider the experiences of refugees, both in Scotland and around the world.
The Festival offers people from different backgrounds the chance to meet and get to know each other better, and most importantly enables refugee communities the chance to speak for themselves, to define themselves on their own terms and in their own voices.
I hope that as many people as possible will take time to mark World Refugee Day and Refugee Festival Scotland 2019 in whatever way they can, and show solidarity, support and understanding to all those who have been forced to flee their homes as a result of war and persecution.
More information about Refugee Festival events taking place across Scotland can be found here: https://www.refugeefestivalscotland.co.uk/programme-2019/