Refugees WelcomeWritten by The Young Women's Movement
This November, Scotland welcomed the first group of refugees to be resettled under the Syrian Vulnerable Persons Relocation scheme. This is our message for them.
As you step off the plane today, know that you are welcome here. Know that for as long as you wish it, Scotland will be a home for you.
As you step off the plane today, into the dreich winter drizzle, know that we will share our umbrellas with you, as we will our languages and our cultures – our many words for rain, how to complain about the weather. We will introduce you to tattie scones, haggis, neeps and tatties and Tunnock’s teacakes and hope that you too will share your recipes; that we can cook and eat and talk together. Know too that we look forward to learning about your home; your memories, your culture, your stories, and your hopes for the future.
We know that this has not been an easy journey and we know that there is no replacement for what you have lost, but know as you as you step off the plane today that you have friends here.
Leila: The first time I came here I was an asylum seeker then a refugee… You feel less stressed when you come here, you feel good. I like to come here. I’ve been coming for six years, I think. In the future I would like to work with YWCA to help other people.
For the refugees in Syria: I hope they will enjoy it with us, and that we will make them welcome. They don’t feel safe in Syria. It is like our – my – country. Now, everything is horrible for them. They need a life, a better life, that’s safe for kids. That’s why we open our house, open to the people. We are human beings, we have to help each other.
Subriya: The Red Cross helped me to join YWCA for the ESOL classes, before I learnt to speak English. I learnt ‘what is my name, hi…’ I learnt English through YWCA, I now know a little. YWCA, you showed me Glasgow… the museums. You showed me the parliament… The welcome in Glasgow; coming here I feel happy. At home, in Somalia… they are still in fear.
The people here, the Scottish, are – *kisses hand* mwah, mwah! – nice people.
At YWCA Scotland – The Young Women’s Movement we are proud of our history of providing spaces where women feel safe, supported and valued. In 1885, the YWCA in Glasgow partnered with the Girls’ Friendly Society, the National Vigilance association and others to offer the Traveller’s Aid Society, which helped support young women new to the city by meeting them off trains and boats, finding or providing accommodation, and helping them to find employment.
In 2010-11, 45 different languages were spoken by women attending ECDL courses at our Glasgow Centre. Last year, of the 325 women who came to our Glasgow Centre for programmes, 152 were refugee and asylum seekers. This year, we have partnered with a number of organisations that support refugees, including The Scottish Refugee Council, The British Red Cross, Waverley Care Glasgow, Surestart Glasgow North and the Youth Community Support Agency.
While we welcome refugees, we hope also for a world in which people live in peace and nobody is forced to flee a country at war. World YWCA has long worked with associations around the world on peacekeeping missions, and for increased friendship and understanding between countries. We will continue this work.
For now, as you step off the plane today – welcome.
Ceris Aston is Information and Publications Officer at The Young Women’s Movement. Originally from Gloucester, Ceris now lives in Leith. She’s a journalist, feminist and played a key role in the mighty No More Page 3 victory earlier this year. Tweet her @insocrates