Syrian refugees flight lands in UK

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Image source, Reuters
Image caption,
The chartered aeroplane landed at around 15:40 GMT at Glasgow airport

About 100 Syrian refugees have landed in the UK - the largest group to arrive since the government expanded its resettlement scheme in September.

The group - thought to be mainly families - arrived at Glasgow Airport on the first of a series of charter flights expected in coming weeks.

They are due to be resettled by local authorities across Scotland.

Scottish MSP Humza Yousaf said it was "a proud day for Scotland", which he said offered "the warmest of welcomes".

The government has said 20,000 refugees will be resettled in the UK by 2020 - with 1,000 due to arrive by Christmas.

At the scene

By BBC reporter Claire Diamond, on the Isle of Bute

Image caption,
Shopkeeper Baljit Singh Virdi and his wife Nancy have promised to order special foods for their new Syrian neighbours

Bute is expecting to take about 15 Syrian families, and residents here have been involved in a range of projects to greet them, from welcome videos to shopping companions.

At the local Londis, shopkeeper Baljit Singh Virdi has vowed to order any foods his new customers require to make them feel at home.

"There are already about 35 Polish families on the island, and I would like it if hundreds more families came to Rothesay. I'm so glad the refugees from Syria are coming here," he said.

Meanwhile school pupils are making a welcome video for their new classmates, and a local church has offered up a hall for a pop-up mosque. One of the island's priests has been enquiring about placing a "welcome to Bute" advert in the local paper in both English and Arabic.

But while many islanders are busily preparing to welcome their new neighbours, some are anxious - they voiced worries about integration and already tight resources being stretched further.

One woman, who gave her name only as Margaret, told me: "It's a small island, so you've got to watch what you say... I mean no harm to them, but I think charity should begin at home."

Those who arrived in Glasgow on Tuesday are from refugee camps in Lebanon, Jordan and other countries near Syria, and are thought to include people suffering from health problems, including post-traumatic stress disorder.

BBC correspondent James Shaw said 103 refugees were met by representatives from five local authorities in western Scotland and Edinburgh.

He added that the Scottish government was expecting between 300 and 400 refugees to arrive on further flights in the weeks before Christmas.

Media caption,
Katie Razzall reports on one family from Syria leaving Jordan for the UK

Officials say the UK only agrees to accept refugees who have committed to undergoing a two-stage security screening process.

The Home Office says it has received offers of accommodation and support from more than 45 local authorities in the UK.

The latest refugees arriving as part of the vulnerable persons relocation (VPR) scheme will join others already taken in by the UK and given legal protection and access to housing, employment, education and, where they need it, expert medical care.

The UK will have to take about 400 refugees a month in order to meet its 20,000 target by 2020.

Welcomed by Scotland

Scotland's Minister for Europe and International Development, Humza Yousaf, said the refugees' arrival was "a proud day for Scotland" and he offered "the warmest of welcomes on behalf of the people of Scotland".

"I would like to wish them all the best as they are supported to start their new lives here," he said.

"The practical offers of support from ordinary people across Scotland who want to help... has been overwhelming.

"These people have fled terror and tyranny and are some of the most vulnerable among those affected by conflict in Syria."

Case study

Family hoping for a normal life

One Syrian family arriving in Glasgow is Qassem, Hiba and their two-year-old daughter Hajar.

They fled to Jordan as refugees in 2013 after leaving their home in Deraa, a city in south-west Syria near the border with Jordan.

Qassem told the BBC they left Syria because many homes in their city were destroyed by bombing and they were living in fear, feeling that they had no future or security.

He said relatives used to carry him to the basement during bombardments, because he has leg problems caused by childhood polio and cannot walk fast.

Qassem said the UN's refugee agency, the UNHCR, had told them that in the UK they could expect a home, as well as proper medical care and education opportunities for their daughter.

He hopes to get medical treatment for his leg problems so that he is able to work to support his family.

'I put it in my mind to leave Jordan so that I can have a future and have the medication I need, to have a future for my children and for my wife. Thanks to God, my dream became true," he said.

Qassem added they are coming to the UK because they thought it was a safe place where they could live normal lives like other human beings.

They are looking forward to integrating with British society and speaking English, he said, and he never wants to go back to Syria.

The Vulnerable Persons Relocation Scheme

Image source, AP
  • Under the scheme all of the "paperwork" is done before the refugees arrive. From day one they get housing, have access to medical care and education and they can work
  • Refugees taken into the UK via this scheme will be granted five years' humanitarian protection which includes access to public funds, the labour market and the possibility of family reunion, if a person was split up from their partner or child when leaving their country
  • After those five years they can apply to settle in the UK
  • Mr Cameron said the scheme would be funded for the first 12 months by the government.
  • Before the scheme was introduced nearly 5,000 Syrians were granted asylum to the UK in the last four years

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