Scotland welcomes 2000th Syrian refugee

Thursday 21 December 2017

Inverclyde is among the 32 councils identified for achieving a refugee support target three years early.

For, Scottish local government umbrella body COSLA, the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities, has celebrated the arrival of the 2000th Syrian refugee through the Syrian resettlement programme.

The milestone delivered by Scottish councils, supported by COSLA, has been achieved three years ahead of schedule. It means that the goal to resettle 10 per cent of those refugees brought to the UK, has been achieved just two years into the five-year programme.

Statistics released earlier this month showed that Scotland has accepted 20 per cent of the Syrian refugees who have so far been brought to the UK through the UK Government funded initiative after fleeing the violence in Syria.

Inverclyde Council Leader Councillor Stephen McCabe, said: “The Syrian resettlement programme showed Scottish local government at its best. Delivering for people in real need and demonstrating the caring heart of Scotland and our communities.  Being there for people in crisis is all in a day’s work for many local government services up and down the country, whether it is people in our community facing financial, social or health difficulties. The work in Scottish councils, including here in Inverclyde, goes beyond that  and has shown that local government is the sum of the vast range of services we deliver which can be co-ordinated to support people in need.”

Those helped by the scheme include young children in urgent need of medical treatment and life-changing care who are now building new lives in every part of Scotland.

The UK Immigration Minister joined the First Minister and UK Representative to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees in COSLA HQ, in Edinburgh, to celebrate these achievements and discuss the future of the programme.

COSLA’s President confirmed a local government commitment to councils continuing to take part in the voluntary programme over the next few years – a pledge to continue to help some of the most vulnerable families affected by the crisis.

Politicians from all 32 councils in Scotland have supported the decision to keep the voluntary scheme open, with further arrivals already expected in January and February.

COSLA President, Cllr Alison Evison said:  “Scottish local government has responded to its moral duty to help and protect those whose lives have been torn apart by war. We are proudly leading the way in our commitment to the Syrian resettlement programme.

“Council staff and communities across Scotland have truly gone the extra mile to reach the 2000 goal – working tirelessly to make all the preparations for their new arrivals, finding suitable homes, helping to settle children in to school and supporting adults to find employment.

“I am delighted to say our commitment does not stop with the initial goal that we set for ourselves at the start of Scotland’s involvement in the programme. As long as we are given the resources and support to do so, COSLA is prepared to continue to assist our councils so that more families can be brought to safety.”

UK Immigration Minister Brandon Lewis said:  “Scotland, along with the rest of the UK, should be proud of the way it has welcomed some of the most vulnerable refugees, and provided them with safety and security so that they can rebuild their lives.

“I am extremely grateful for the support that COSLA and the Scottish Government have given to the Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Scheme and Vulnerable Children’s Scheme so far and hope that this will continue as we move forward, on track, to meet our commitment to resettle 23,000 refugees in the UK by 2020.”

Scotland’s First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon said:  “Scotland is an open and welcoming country and today’s celebration, welcoming the 2,000th Syrian refugee to our country, is testament to that. In 2015 I made a commitment that we would take our fair share of Syrian refugees coming to the UK and the hard work and dedication of local authorities across Scotland has meant we have more than met that pledge.

“I am proud that Scotland has welcomed so many refugees fleeing persecution and war into our communities so they can rebuild their lives here.”

UK Representative to the UNHCR, Gonzalo Vargas Llosa said:  “Scotland has been a generous host to asylum seekers and refugees and today’s announcement that 2000 Syrians have been resettled to Scotland is a welcome development. At a time when more people have been forced from their homes than ever before, resettlement provides a lifeline out of danger and the chance for refugees to restart their lives in safety and dignity.”

Syrian Resettlement Programme:

  • The Syrian Resettlement Programme is a voluntary programme run by UK Government in partnership with UNHCR and local authorities across the UK.
  •  The UK Government has committed to resettling 20,000 refugees through this scheme, and a further 3,000 from the Middle East North Africa region through the associated Vulnerable Children Relocation Scheme.
  • Refugees arriving through both programmes are granted refugee status and are given leave to remain in the UK for 5 years in the first instance.  At the end of the 5-year period, they are entitled to apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain in the UK.
  • Local authorities can choose whether or not to participate dependent on local circumstances. They receive a 5-year funding package to enable them to participate. This is crucial to developing the infrastructure that is required to support the families.
  • All 32 Scottish councils are committed to supporting the resettlement efforts in whatever way they can.

What is the 2000 goal?:

  • In September 2015, the First Minister pledged that Scotland would receive its ‘fair share’ of those refugees brought to the UK through the Syrian Resettlement Programme.  All 32 councils in Scotland committed to supporting the resettlement efforts too, and set the target of providing homes for 2000 people fleeing the conflict by 2020.  This was later extended to include a further 300 people resettled through the associated Vulnerable Children Relocation Scheme.
  • The first charter flight carrying 108 Syrian refugees arrived into Glasgow Airport in November 2015. By Christmas 2015 1,000 Syrians had been resettled in the UK and 40% had come to Scotland – a truly remarkable effort.
  • As of December 2017, 2,000 refugees have been resettled in Scotland in the first two years of the five-year programme. This achievement has involved a range of partners from health boards, police, the voluntary sector and local communities working closely with councils.
  • Immigration statistics released by the ONS in December showed that nearly 2000 Syrian refugees had been resettled in Scotland since 2015 – over 20% of the UK total https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/immigration-statistics-july-to-september-2017/how-many-people-do-we-grant-asylum-or-protection-to#data-tables (data table volume 4)
  • Scottish Local Government has today committed to continue to play its part in supporting these efforts. Councils will continue to have the option of whether to take part in the funded programme dependent on local circumstances and capacity.
  • This decision was taken at a meeting of the COSLA Community Well-being Board in September 2017.

About COSLA:

  • COSLA is the representative voice of Local Government in Scotland.  We provide political leadership on national issues, and work with councils to improve local services and strengthen local democracy.
  • COSLA receives funding from both the UK and Scottish Government to provide strategic support to local authorities as they seek to support their migrant populations.  This includes the work that councils do to support refugees and asylum seekers.
  • COSLA has played a central role in coordinating the efforts of councils in relation to the Syrian Resettlement Programme.  We liaise with UK and Scottish Government on an ongoing basis, host regular meetings of lead resettlement officers, and ensure that key partners across the public and voluntary sector are brought together to share learning and best practice.

Page last updated: 21 December 2017