Nicola Sturgeon: refugees’ arrival is a proud day for Scotland

FIRST Minister Nicola Sturgeon has hailed the arrival in Glasgow of more than 100 Syrian refugees as a “proud” day for Scotland amid heightened tensions over the terrorist atrocities in Paris.

The Enter Air plane lands at Glasgow Airport. Picture: Hemedia
The Enter Air plane lands at Glasgow Airport. Picture: Hemedia

A charter plane from the Jordanian capital Amman carrying the group – thought to be mainly families – touched down at Glasgow Airport shortly after 3:30pm. Fittingly, the Boeing 737 carried the name of Enter, a Polish airline.

The group is the largest yet to arrive as part of the UK government’s expanded resettlement scheme and is understood to include dozens of children classified as highly vulnerable. Several of the adults are in ill health, suffering conditions such as post traumatic stress disorder.

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Their arrival on Scottish soil in torrential rain yesterday, after a journey that included a stop-off in Beirut, was a low-key affair.

The refugees are set to arrive at Glasgow airport. Picture: Stephen Mansfield

Speaking at Holyrood, where there was a motion of condolence for the victims of Friday’s terror attacks, Ms Sturgeon said Scotland was providing safety for those fleeing violence and persecution.

She said: “The actions of the few must not be allowed to undermine the values, the freedoms and the way of life of the many.

“Today, Scotland is welcoming refugees from Syria. Other parts of the UK will do likewise over the next few weeks.

“Let me be clear – people across Scotland and the UK have every right to seek and receive assurances from their governments that robust security checks are being carried out and that public safety is not being comprised.

“But, here in Scotland and across the UK, we should also feel proud that we are providing refuge for some very vulnerable individuals who are fleeing for safety from the type of people who carried out the Paris attacks.”

In an emotional address to the chamber, Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale called on the country to welcome the refugees with “open and loving arms”.

“Let’s look at them like we do those Parisians who fled the violence on Friday evening,” she said. “People, like you and I, who don’t want to live in fear of constant violence.

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“Families who just want to get on with their lives.

“Because they have travelled halfway across the world to get away from the terrorists in their own land, often driven by the fear that lies behind them over the road ahead.

“So from this chamber to those refugees arriving today let the message ring out, ‘You will find friendship in your new home here in Scotland’. Please know that you are very welcome.”

Humza Yousaf, the minister for Europe and international development, said it was important to “protect the privacy and security” of those arriving, but said they would find the “warmest of welcomes” in their new communities.

Downing Street refused to specify exactly how many refugees had arrived in Glasgow, but said they had undergone “rigorous” security checks before boarding the plane, involving biometric scans by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNCHR) and screening by the Home Office.

The charter flight formed the vanguard of the UK government’s resettlement scheme, which was significantly expanded in September. There are plans to resettle around 1,000 Syrian refugees by Christmas, complementing a longer-term target of bringing 20,000 people to the UK by 2020.

Richard Harrington, the minister for Syrian refugees who was in Glasgow yesterday, said: “These arrivals are a landmark moment for the vulnerable persons’ resettlement scheme and the result of great collaboration between the government, the UNHCR, local authorities and the devolved administrations.

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“These vulnerable people will now have the chance to rebuild their lives in safe and secure surroundings, among supportive communities in the UK.

“Over the coming weeks we will provide refuge to hundreds more people who have been forced from their homes because of civil unrest, persecution and war.”

Those who arrived in Scotland will be resettled across five local authority areas: Glasgow, Edinburgh, Inverclyde, Renfrewshire and North Ayrshire. As part of the resettlement scheme, each council is aware of the identities of the refugees, as well as any specific medical or housing needs they may require.

As part of their resettlement, they have been granted leave to remain for five years, after which they can apply to reside permanently in the UK.