COUNCIL leaders have confirmed Scotland can provide shelter to at least 2,000 Syrians, with refugees expected to arrive in some areas before Christmas.
David O’Neill, the leader of the local government organisation Cosla, confirmed authorities’ willingness to help in the wake of the refugee crisis which has hit Europe.
Scotland’s local authorities have an excellent track record in supporting the most vulnerable in society”Councillor Harry McGuigan
All 32 councils in Scotland are willing to play a part in a coordinated response, although refugees will not necessarily be rehomed in every single area.
Cosla president Mr O’Neill said the refugee crisis had prompted “not only an outpouring of public concern for the plight of the millions of people who have had to flee their homes but also an unprecedented response from Scottish local government”.
He stated: “A number of councils had already been in discussions with the Home Office about their involvement in the Syrian Vulnerable Persons Relocation Scheme. The last three weeks has seen all Scotland’s councils willing to support a coordinated response to what can only be described as a humanitarian crisis. For many councils that has seen them committing to taking refugees immediately.”
Refugees could arrive in at least 18 separate local authorities areas before Christmas, Cosla said
Councillor Harry McGuigan, Cosla’s community wellbeing spokesman, said: “Scotland’s local authorities have an excellent track record in supporting the most vulnerable in society and already have effective systems and partnerships in place which makes them well placed to host Syrian refugees in their communities.
“However, that said, we also recognise the scale of the task and the necessity for detailed planning. We fully recognise that this is not simply about matching people to houses, and that we must meet the wider needs of people so that they can integrate into our communities and build a safe life in Scotland.
“The response to this crisis will therefore be focused on balancing the urgency of the situation with planning the most appropriate ways in which councils and their community planning partners receive and integrate these extremely vulnerable people.”
Mr O’Neill said Cosla would “work with all Scottish councils to support and co-ordinate their efforts and to negotiate on their behalf with the Home Office and Scottish Government about the shape and effective implementation of the resettlement programme”.
He added: “We call upon both the Home Office and the Scottish Government to ensure that the programme is fully resourced so that local authorities and partners in the likes of health, the police and the voluntary sector can put appropriate services in place to meet the needs of these very vulnerable people.”