Scotland

Syrian refugee housing target met three years early

Syrian refugees in Scotland Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption More than 2,000 Syrian refugees have been resettled in Scotland

Scotland has met a target to provide homes for 2,000 Syrian refugees three years ahead of schedule.

The UK government has committed to resettling 20,000 people fleeing the war-torn country through the Syrian Vulnerable Person Resettlement Programme.

Local authorities north of the border agreed to take in 10% of that number.

But the council body Cosla said that goal had been reached just two years into the five-year scheme.

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."

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption All of the 32 Scottish local authorities have resettled families of Syrian refugees

Statistics released earlier this month show that Scotland has accepted one in five of Syrians brought to the UK through the resettlement scheme.

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

A further commitment to provide refuge to 3,000 youngsters from the Middle East North Africa region has been made by the UK government, through the associated Vulnerable Children Relocation Scheme.

Those arriving through both programmes are granted refugee status and given leave to remain in the UK for five years in the first instance.

At the end of that period, they are entitled to apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain in the UK.

Local authorities can choose whether or not to participate in the programmes, dependent on local circumstances, but receive a five-year funding package to enable them to participate.

Image caption The Alaghbar family say they have been welcomed with kindness to Edinburgh.

The Alaghbar family: A new life in Scotland

Omar and Fatima Alaghbar arrived in Edinburgh in November 2015, having fled Syria for Lebanon with their children, Adel and Sara.

Mrs Alaghbar told BBC Scotland they were met by lots of "friendly and kind" people when they moved to Scotland.

"We were looking to be safe and I think we found safety here in Edinburgh," she said.

Life in Syria was "very difficult", she added. "When you hear the sound of bombs and you see your children scared, you can't stay."

She said they were very worried about her parents who are still in Syria.

But she added: "For me, I would like to stay in Edinburgh but I wish the war was finished and I could see my parents as soon as possible."

All 32 Scottish councils have committed to supporting resettlement efforts, helped by Cosla, in whatever way they can.

The UK immigration minister will join the first minister and UK representative to the UN high commissioner for refugees at Cosla's headquarters in Edinburgh on Monday, to celebrate the milestone and discuss the future of the programme.

Cosla president 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 2,000 goal - working tirelessly to make all the preparations for their new arrivals, finding suitable homes, helping to settle children into school and supporting adults to find employment."

UK Immigration Minister Brandon Lewis added: "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."

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