Scotland takes in 1,000th Syrian refugee

image captionRefugees who settle in Scotland are given help to learn English

Scotland has taken in 1,000 Syrian refugees since a summit last year aimed at easing the international crisis.

The Scottish government said the milestone was reached after 120 new refugees arrived in Scotland in the past week.

A refugee charity thanked all of those involved in the "phenomenal response" to the new arrivals.

But it said the number taken in was "tiny compared with the people in desperate need".

Last September's summit was attended by representatives of all Holyrood's political parties as well as dozens of interested organisations.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said at the time that Scotland should accept 1,000 refugees "as a starting point for a meaningful discussion".

She also established a taskforce with a £1m budget to co-ordinate Scotland's practical response to the crisis, which has seen tens of thousands of people apply for asylum in the UK.

The UK as a whole is committed to resettling 20,000 Syrian refugees through its Vulnerable Persons Resettlement (VPR) scheme over the next five years, with more than 2,800 people having been given refuge so far.

Equalities Secretary Angela Constance marked the 1,000 refugee milestone by meeting refugees and support workers at an educational project in Edinburgh.

image copyrightAFP
image captionHundreds of thousands of refugees have arrived in Europe over the past year

She said the Scottish government remained committed to accepting a "fair and proportionate" share of the refugees coming to the UK, and urged the UK government to accept more refugees.

Ms Constance added: "It's been fantastic to see people extend the warm hands of friendship to their new neighbours.

"However, integration is a long-term process, and local authorities have been working in partnership with third sector and community organisations to ensure that the right support is in place."

David Bradwell, of Scottish Faiths Action for Refugees, said: "A thousand people is worth marking - but it is still a tiny number compared with the people in desperate need."

He added: "The response from local communities across Scotland has been phenomenal.

"Yesterday I was in Aberdeen hearing about how volunteers are working with Syrian families to support their settling into life, with everything from offering lifts, babysitting, to supporting kids with their school homework."

Vulnerable children

The UK government, which hosted a Supporting Syria and the Region Conference in London in February this year, has said it is at the forefront of the response to the Syrian humanitarian crisis, which has seen millions of people displaced by the long-running conflict in the Middle Eastern country.

Commitments made at the London conference aim to create an estimated 1.1 million jobs for refugees and host country citizens in the region by 2018.

They also aim to ensure that, by the end of the 2016/17 school year, 1.7 million children - all refugee children and vulnerable children in host communities - will be in quality education with equal access for girls and boys.

A spokeswoman for the Home Office said the UK had pledged more than £2.3bn - its largest ever response to a single humanitarian crisis.

She added: "There has been a tremendous amount of goodwill from local authorities and the private, non-governmental and voluntary sectors as well as from individuals across the UK.

"We are very grateful for all the local authorities who have offered their support and will continue to work with them to identify further opportunities to resettle Syrian families."

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