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Region to be safe haven for refugees

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By Marc Mclean, Local Democracy Reporter
Region to be safe haven for refugees

AFGHAN refugees fleeing the Taliban have been promised shelter and support in Dumfries and Galloway after the council made a public pledge last week.

Councillors from various political backgrounds put on a united front in offering a safe haven for families fleeing the crisis-torn country.

Dee and Glenkens councillor Dougie Campbell is a former director of the Scottish Refugee Council and mentor to refugees.

At last week’s full council meeting, he said: “Through that experience I made very good friends with a refugee family who witnessed their entire family being slaughtered by Islamists terrorists, and they managed to escape to the UK.

“At that time when they arrived in Glasgow, they had no education whatsoever. Now one is an occupational health assistant and the other has a degree in finance and auditing.

“Through that benefit of coming to our country, they are contributing in a very positive way to the wellbeing of our society.

“What I do know is that the scars are very real for that family, and that will be the same for Afghan refugees who will arrive here in Dumfries and Galloway, both as part of the current ARAP (Afghan Resettlement and Assistance Programme) scheme but also if we agree to support the new Afghan Resettlement Scheme.

“This commitment we make to them has to be a lifetime commitment to support them because they have experienced many, many horrors and have great fears for their family back home.

“I’m sure most of them would want to go back home, and whether that is realistic for them I have my doubts, but it’s important we support them in every way we can.”

Councillor Campbell tabled a motion at the full council meeting calling for the local authority to pledge to provide a safe haven for Afghan refugees, with appropriate funding provided by the UK government.

This was voted through by elected members and first supported by Mid Galloway and Wigtown West councillor Katie Hagmann.

She said: “Dumfries and Galloway is a wonderful region – and we do have space. We are welcoming the inclusion of refugees within our population, who will do nothing but enhance our communities.”

Annandale East and Eskdale councillor Archie Dryburgh said: “I very much support this. Only last week we heard about how the Taliban have stopped secondary school education for women – and I think that’s just the start of what’s going to happen in Afghanistan.

“If we can support Afghan refugees coming into the region and give them education, hopefully one day they’ll be able to go back home and run a country democratically.

“I also have first-hand experience with supporting Syrian refugees with one of our third sector organisations here in Annan, and they do call Dumfries and Galloway home.”

While he didn’t oppose the refugees move, Castle Douglas and Crocketford councillor David James raised concerns about immigration.

He said: “At any one point there are around two billion people who would like to come to the UK. We can’t take them all.

“As I understand from the SNP thinking, we should encourage as much immigration into Scotland as possible.

“We are lucky they haven’t been successful in fulfilling that vision yet because immigration is not always good.

“There are parts of England now that people don’t feel at home in because when it’s more than a small number of people they don’t necessarily assimilate.”


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