Refugee crisis: £1m set aside for Scottish response

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image captionThe pledge was made after an emergency summit on the crisis was chaired by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon

Initial funding of £1m is being made available to co-ordinate Scotland's response to the refugee crisis, the Scottish government has announced.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said the money would help the work of a taskforce set up by ministers.

Prime Minister David Cameron has said the UK will take in "thousands" more Syrian refugees.

Faith leaders in Scotland welcomed the two governments' willingness to offer a safe haven "to these desperate people".

But they also called for practical action to help as many refugees as possible.

The announcement by the Scottish government followed an emergency summit chaired by Ms Sturgeon on Friday.

It brought together political leaders, religious groups, humanitarian organisations and wider civic Scotland.

They discussed what could be done to help those fleeing Syria and other nations for safety in Europe.

'Heartbreaking scenes'

Ms Sturgeon has said Scotland should accept 1,000 people as a "starting point" for further help.

In an interview with Sky News on Sunday morning the first minister also said she would be "happy" to have a Syrian refugee stay in her home.

She said: "I've been overwhelmed myself with messages from people across Scotland saying they personally would be happy to give a home temporarily, or for a longer period of time, to somebody fleeing Syria.

"Yes, I would be absolutely happy to do that as part of a bigger, wider, organised approach."

image captionMs Sturgeon said the "heartbreaking scenes of desperate people fleeing their homes and looking for refuge in Europe" had touched many people in Scotland

Announcing the funding, the SNP leader said: "During the humanitarian summit I convened on Friday, we heard the personal testimony of those who escaped persecution or war and have now been welcomed in Scotland and made to feel part of the community.

"Their stories are inspirational and I hope that the steps we are now taking can help many more refugees like them make a better life for their families."

She added: "This initial funding will ensure that the frontline organisations who will help refugees integrate into Scotland will have resources to carry out their work."

Scottish Labour welcomed the funding announcement, saying it was important Scotland spoke with "one voice" on the issue.

Leader Kezia Dugdale said: "This week, Scotland watched in horror at the tragedy unfolding across Europe, and then spoke with one voice to say that refugees are welcome.

"From Westminster to Holyrood to our council chambers, that rare thing has broken out amongst politicians - consensus."

'Desperate situation'

On Sunday, faith leaders in Scotland released a joint statement, saying they viewed the "desperate" situation facing refugees currently seeking sanctuary in Europe "with growing alarm".

It was signed by the Archbishop of Glasgow, Philip Tartaglia, the moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, Reverend Dr Angus Morrison, the convener of the Muslim Council of Scotland, Dr Javed Gill, and the director of the Scottish Council of Jewish Communities, Ephraim Borowski.

They wrote: "Our faiths in their different ways are rooted in the refugee experience, in what it means to be forced to leave a place where one's very existence is threatened in search of somewhere safer.

"Our scriptures teach the importance of love and compassion for all who are destitute.

"We are concerned by the dehumanising language used to describe people who are so desperate that they risk their lives, and we share the belief that all people have an inherent dignity and right to life."

They added: "We welcome the UK and Scottish governments' willingness to offer a safe haven to these desperate people.

"We urge them to back this with practical action to help as many refugees as possible, and we call on our communities to support this and make them welcome."

The leaders will meet early this week to discuss the support faith communities can offer refugees arriving in Scotland.

The SNP is to devote its opposition day debate to the issue in the Commons on Wednesday, having accused the prime minister of failing to show leadership.

Mr Cameron has said the UK will take more refugees from Syrian camps and he has also pledged an additional £100m in aid.

Syrians seeking asylum in the UK

25,771

people applied for asylum in the UK in the year ending June 2015

2,204

were from Syria

  • 87% of Syrian requests for asylum were granted

  • 216 Syrians have been granted protection under a special scheme to relocate vulnerable people

  • 4,980 Syrian asylum seekers and their dependents have been granted asylum since 2011

  • 145 Syrian asylum seekers have been removed from the UK since 2011

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