SYRIAN refugees’ arrival is a positive in a world of terror, writes Chris Marshall
FOR those who have endured the horrors of war in Syria and the perils of an escape to Europe, the Isle of Bute is likely to be an almost surreal refuge.
Once a holiday resort for Victorian Glasgow, the island is set to accept a number of those who arrived in the UK yesterday to begin their new lives.
A total of 15 families will settle in Argyll and Bute before Christmas, one of five Scottish local authorities taking part in the early stages of the Syrian Vulnerable Peoples Relocation Scheme.
According to the Home Office, around 45 local authorities across the UK have agreed to take refugees so far.
It is one of the many tragedies of Friday’s terror attacks in Paris that this humanitarian effort has been overshadowed by the actions of the group calling itself Islamic State.
The suggestion that one of the attackers was a Syrian passport holder who passed through Greece in October has raised concerns about the ability of the authorities there to properly monitor those arriving from the Middle East.
But although it has overshadowed Scotland’s offer of asylum, the murders on the streets of the French capital and the wider fight against extremism must not be allowed to entirely eclipse the good that is being done here.
Nor should we link those arriving here with acts of terror carried out in the name of a group which has helped drive them from their homes.
In accepting the first of 20,000 refugees who will arrive in the UK by 2020, Scotland is offering hope and compassion to those who have seen precious little of either in the past few years.
In a warning on Monday about the dangers of hate crime in the wake of the Paris attacks, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said those arriving through the relocation scheme had undergone “stringent security checks” and would be shown “compassion and acceptance”.
Under the scheme all of the paperwork is completed before the refugees arrive.
They receive housing, have access to medical care and education and are entitled to work straight away.
Those arriving at Glasgow Airport yesterday are from refugee camps in Lebanon and Jordan.
According to reports, they are thought to include people suffering from health problems, including post-traumatic stress disorder.
A further 300 to 400 refugees are expected to arrive in Scotland in the weeks before Christmas.
After five years’ humanitarian protection, they will be able to apply for residency in the UK.
Those arriving in Bute do so in an area of the country where both housing and school places are in good supply.
The priority for the authorities must now be the integration of these families into Scottish life.
That means parents as well as children learning English, and work being done to prevent the new arrivals living in cultural silos.
Speaking yesterday, Scotland’s Minister for Europe and International Development Humza Yousaf said the refugees’ arrival was “a proud day for Scotland”.
He added: “These people have fled terror and tyranny and are some of the most vulnerable among those affected by conflict in Syria.”
In a world that seems to become more dangerous with every passing week, we should take comfort from the fact that we have made life considerably safer for this small group at least.
Many will choose to stay in Scotland, but hopefully the day will come when they can return home to a country free from the ravages of civil war and the terror of Islamic State.