As the world faces its worst refugee crisis since the Second World War, UNISON delegates from local government branches across Scotland say “Refugees welcome here”.

Refugees welcome here say UNISON local government delegates

Refugees welcome here say UNISON local government delegates

UNISON delegates from local government branches across Scotland took time out from their conference in Glasgow today to say “Refugees welcome here”.

UNISON Scottish Secretary Mike Kirby welcomed the leadership shown by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and opposition leader Kezia Dugdale as they united in the Scottish Parliament to pledge humanitarian support for refugees.

Sturgeon attacked David Cameron’s refusal to accept Britain’s fair share of refugees, and said that the image of “that wee boy” Aylan Kurdi had reduced her to tears. Sturgeon said Scotland should take 1,000 refugees as a starting point for addressing the crisis.

There has been cross party support for a humane approach to the refugee crisis in the Scottish Parliament, including from Cameron’s colleague, Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson, who said “this is not an immigration issue, it’s a humanitarian one, and the human response must be to help. If we don’t, what does that make us?”

A petition calling on the British Government to take action received more than 370,000 signatures in three days.

Cameron has been left increasingly isolated as more and more people express their disgust at his failure to acknowledge Britain’s culpability in the crisis, and responsibility to provide humanitarian assistance to desperate people fleeting conflict.

Kirby issued a stark warning in April about the crisis and UK government inaction, saying “this lack of action gives succour to traffickers seeking to exploit people in desperate situations in pursuit of profit. We cannot allow these people to exploit our Government’s inaction.”

“We must go even further than this and raise awareness of the combination of factors that cause people to turn to traffickers in the first place.”

“We must also seek to change the approach of the UK to immigration, creating a better more humane system that recognises our responsibilities in the world,” said Mike, adding that the UK is not doing enough to provide refuge to people who are displaced by conflict.

“In Syria, alone, close to four million refugees have fled since the beginning of the civil war in 2011. This is the largest refugee population currently under the care of the UN’s refugee agency, but to date the UK has only provided resettlement places for 143 Syrian refugees.

“This lack of action gives sucour to traffickers seeking to exploit people in desperate situations in pursuit of profit. We cannot allow these people to exploit our Government’s inaction.”

The position of the UK government in trying to barricade out refugees is increasingly being seen as shameful, short sighted and untenable. For decade, developing countries have taken in the bulk of the world’s refugees while Europe has erected borders to keep out the refugees it helped to create. 350,000 refugees have travelled to Europe in 2015, mainly fleeing war and economic crisis. Around 2,500 are believed to have drowned in the Mediterranean this year.

Last week, the decomposing bodies of 71 Syrian refugees including four children were discovered in an abandoned truck near Vienna.

Germany is showing strong leadership by accepting 800,000 refugees into its borders. In contrast, Prime Minister David Cameron has stated that the government could not accept “more and more” refugees. He would be referring to the UK taking in a pitiful 216 Syrian refugees from camps in Jordan and other neighbouring countries under the “vulnerable persons” relocation initiative since June 2014. The number of asylum applications to the UK has flat lined in recent years – there were 24,914 in 2014, a small figure given the world is in the grip of its worst refugee crisis since the Second World War.

How you can help

This Positive Action in Housing briefing gives union branches in Scotland an indication of some immediate actions you can take in political campaigning and in supporting emergency assistance.


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Walton Pantland

South African trade unionist living in Glasgow. Loves whisky, wine, running and the great outdoors. Walton did an MA in Industrial Relations at Ruskin, Oxford, and is interested in how trade unions use new technology to organise.

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