Campaigners call on Capital to take more refugees

Syrian migrants arrive at main train station in Copenhagen on their way to Sweden. Picture: AP
Syrian migrants arrive at main train station in Copenhagen on their way to Sweden. Picture: AP
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CAMPAIGNERS have welcomed a promise to house 100 Syrian refugees in Edinburgh over the next 12 months – but are calling on city leaders to take even more.

Council bosses said the commitment was in response to the “humanitarian crisis” unfolding across Europe as refugees continue to arrive in their thousands.

Edinburgh as a city can certainly house more than that

Joanna McCall of CalAid Edinburgh

They had already signed up to take 25 individuals in May but that number has been increased after First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said Scotland would accept 1,000 migrants.

And they said more could be accommodated in Edinburgh over coming years, adding that this would depend on continued funding from the UK and Scottish governments.

No detail has been released on exactly how refugees will be distributed.

However, city bosses have insisted they are well placed to offer housing, education and health care without affecting services for existing residents.

Council leader Andrew Burns said: “Having agreed to sign up to the Syrian Vulnerable Persons Relocation Scheme in May, we’re in a good position to respond to the Prime Minister’s announcement of greater numbers.

“We are witnessing a humanitarian crisis, and stepping up to the plate to offer a place of safety for refugees is simply the right thing to do. We will work with our partners – police, health, housing and voluntary sector – as well as the people of Edinburgh to ensure refugees receive a very warm welcome in Edinburgh.”

Councillor Alex Lunn, deputy communities leader, added: “There has been cross-party council support – I want to make sure the children that are coming will benefit from the first-class educational opportunities that Edinburgh offers to all its children.”

Charity leaders said the commitment – which comes after Glasgow council chiefs said they would be able to take in an extra 66 Syrian refugees on top of the 55 they have already accepted – was a positive step.

But they said the capital was capable of doing far more.

Joanna McCall, of CalAid Edinburgh, said: “I feel that 100 is not enough.

“It’s a start – but if they’re beginning to raise the numbers based on growing public support, I believe that Edinburgh as a city can certainly house more than that.

“I feel personally that if our budgets were set properly, there would be enough money to support both the increasing numbers of people here living in poverty and a much larger number of refugees.”

Simon O’Connell, executive director of Edinburgh-based Mercy Corps Europe, which has dispatched teams to work with European refugees, said: “[The promise to take 100] is a very welcome announcement and shows the city of Edinburgh’s spirit of humanity.”