Nicola Sturgeon: Attack on refugee is an attack on us all

NICOLA Sturgeon has spoken up for refugees following the alleged attack on Syrian Shabaz Ali in an Edinburgh hostel.

People gather for the Stand Up To Racism rally in Tollcross. Picture: JON SAVAGE

She said Scotland must stand united at all times against all forms of racism and all types of hate crime.

Speaking at First Minister’s Questions, she said: “We want Scotland to be – and to be seen to be – a refuge from war and persecution, and any attack on any individual or group of people living in Scotland, regardless of who they are or where they come from, should be seen as an attack on all of us.”

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She had been asked by Lothians Green MSP Andy Wightman what support the government was giving to local authorities and communities in terms of protection and reassurance following what appeared to have been a racially motivated criminal act.

Ms Sturgeon said: “The Scottish Government will do what we can, with the local authority in Edinburgh and other groups, to provide as much reassurance and support as possible. I am aware that there is a fundraising campaign to raise funds for this particular individual, and I am sure that many people across the country will want to support that.”

Her comments came as campaign group Positive Action in Housing said the city council had offered Mr Ali – who is still recovering in hospital – a temporary flat.

But the group said it was “beyond unacceptable” that his female cousin, whom he was said to be protecting when he was attacked, had been placed in a predominantly male hostel. It said she had instead been found accommodation in the Room for Refugees Network.

Council Leader Adam McVey, said: “There are a number of reasons why people present as homeless and we offer anyone assessed as homeless a range of temporary accommodation options until they can find a more permanent solution. Appropriate support services are always offered to assist people while they are in temporary accommodation, particularly for vulnerable individuals.”

“I can also confirm that Shabaz Ali and his cousin have also been offered alternative suitable accommodation. It wouldn’t be appropriate to give out any other personal information.”

The move came as hundreds of people turned out at a rally at Tollcross in support of refugees.

Robina Qureshi, director of Positive Action in Housing, said she had been struck by the “dehumanising” experiences the family went through until their story was highlighted.

“Every step they have taken was difficult – the lack of information about their rights, trying to make it through as refugees, Shabaz’s mother stuck in Syria, his father in one place, him in another, a cousin in yet another situation.

“We draw comfort from the fact that so many members of our community, individuals and institutions, stepped in once alerted to play a significant part in helping this beautiful but fragmented Syrian family regain some peace, strength and faith in humankind.”

A 17-year-old man has appeared in court over an incident at an address in Upper Gilmore Place last week.