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The Capital Weekender with Tom Watts 1:30am - 5am
18 December 2017, 06:00
Scotland has met a target to provide homes for 2,000 Syrian refugees three years ahead of schedule.
The UK Government has committed to resettling 20,000 people fleeing the war-torn country through the Syrian Vulnerable Person Resettlement Programme.
Councils north of the border were to take in 10% of that number, but have reached that goal just two years into the five-year scheme.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said: "Scotland is an open and welcoming country and today's celebration, welcoming the 2,000th Syrian refugee to our country, is testament to that.
"In 2015 I made a commitment that we would take our fair share of Syrian refugees coming to the UK and the hard work and dedication of local authorities across Scotland has meant we have more than met that pledge.
"I am proud that Scotland has welcomed so many refugees fleeing persecution and war into our communities so they can rebuild their lives here."
Statistics released earlier this month show Scotland has accepted one in five of Syrians brought to the UK through the resettlement scheme.
Those helped by the initiative include young children in urgent need of medical treatment and life-changing care, who are now building new lives across Scotland.
A further commitment to provide refuge to 3,000 youngsters from the Middle East North Africa region has been made by the UK Government, through the associated Vulnerable Children Relocation Scheme.
Those arriving through both programmes are granted refugee status and given leave to remain in the UK for five years in the first instance.
At the end of that period, they are entitled to apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain in the UK.
Local authorities can choose whether or not to participate in the programmes, dependent on local circumstances, but receive a five-year funding package to enable them to participate.
All 32 Scottish councils have committed to supporting resettlement efforts, helped by COSLA, in whatever way they can.
The UK Immigration Minister will join the First Minister and UK Representative to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees in COSLA HQ, Edinburgh, on Monday to celebrate the milestone and discuss the future of the programme.
COSLA president Alison Evison said: "Scottish Local Government has responded to its moral duty to help and protect those whose lives have been torn apart by war.
"We are proudly leading the way in our commitment to the Syrian Resettlement Programme.
"Council staff and communities across Scotland have truly gone the extra mile to reach the 2,000 goal - working tirelessly to make all the preparations for their new arrivals, finding suitable homes, helping to settle children in to school and supporting adults to find employment."
UK Immigration Minister Brandon Lewis added: "Scotland, along with the rest of the UK, should be proud of the way it has welcomed some of the most vulnerable refugees, and provided them with safety and security so that they can rebuild their lives."