Taskforce To Look At Support For Refugees

5 September 2015, 07:00 | Updated: 30 March 2016, 13:50


Nicola Sturgeon has insisted that Britain can and must do more to help refugees fleeing Syria for Europe and said Scotland should accept 1,000 people as a "starting point'' for further help.

After a summit in Edinburgh with politicians, charities, religious bodies and refugee support groups, a taskforce is being established to co-ordinate Scotland's practical response to the crisis.

Chaired by International Development Minister Humza Yousaf, it will work to establish capacity in a range of matters such as housing, health services, language support, transport and social services.

The group will also examine how the goodwill of the public can be harnessed with humanitarian organisations reporting a huge number of offers of help from individuals and groups across the country.

The First Minister said discussions at the summit would be summarised and sent to the Prime Minister as part of a positive offer of support from Scotland as the UK responds to the crisis.

Earlier, Ms Sturgeon criticised the UK Government, accusing it of "struggling to show leadership in this refugee crisis''.

People across the world have been shocked by images of desperate families seeking safety, with Ms Sturgeon admitting she had been reduced to tears by the picture of a drowned Syrian boy who was washed up on a Turkish beach.

She said such images would "haunt our consciences and reputation for many generations to come if we don't together and collectively act to help those in desperate need''.

The First Minister said: "The summit was focused on looking at some of the practical issues involved and I have now established a task force to co-ordinate Scotland's response, working with local authorities, public agencies and third sector organisations to ensure that any refugees that come to Scotland will be able to integrate successfully.

"As a first step, I expect the taskforce to examine capacity in a range of services in Scotland, including housing, health and social services.

"The taskforce will also have a hugely important role in harnessing the many, many expressions of goodwill and offers of help from the public in Scotland, providing a focal point for that activity and ensuring that the wider Scottish community is able to play its part in welcoming people to our country.''

Ms Sturgeon said she wants to "work constructively'' with the UK government and welcomed the Prime Minister's pledge for further support today but called for more detail on the plans.

She said: "The people we see crowding on railway stations and wading ashore on Europe's southern and eastern frontiers are not willing migrants, they are desperate, frightened and vulnerable human beings forced to flee their homelands often in fear of their lives.

"The fact that so many are prepared to risk their lives and risk the lives of their children to get to Europe should be proof enough of that.

"The image this week of three-year-old Aylan Kurdi washed ashore on a Turkish beach is heartbreaking beyond words, it moved me, and I am sure countless others around the world, to tears.

"It is a picture now seared into the collective consciousness of the world and it is a demonstration in the starkest and cruellest terms possible of the reality of what this crisis is.

"What we are witnessing is a chain of human misery stretching from those south-eastern boundaries of the EU all the way to north Africa, Syria, Afghanistan and other countries.

"I am not suggesting there are easy answers to this crisis, its causes are complex and varied and it won't be solved overnight. However, I do believe we need a better response.''