Syrians to be welcomed to Glasgow with ‘refuweegee’ packs containing letters from locals

Vulnerable Syrian refugees are to receive special “Refuweegee” welcome packs when they arrive in Glasgow.

The packs, organised by community group Refuweegee, will contain essentials such as blankets, toiletries and stationery, Glasgow-themed items to introduce them to their new city and a heart-warming welcome letter from city residents.

Founder of the Refuweegee project, Selina Hales, said the idea came about from a desire to do something practical in the face of the growing refugee crisis.

“Having seen everything in the news I wanted to do something, not just donate,” she added.

She launched Refuweegee last Thursday and says so far the response has been hugely positive.

Hales came up with the name, which is a mix of refugee and the slang for a Glaswegian, because she wanted Syrian refugees to feel part of the Glasgow community.

She said: “I wanted something that represented not just the welcoming of refugees into Glasgow but their acceptance as one of the locals.”

Hales has even given it its own definition: “Refuweegee (noun) – a person who upon arrival in Glasgow is embraced by the people of the city, a person considered to be a local.”

Maps of Glasgow and contact details for local services will round out the practical elements of the pack but Hales wants them to contain something unique to Glasgow.

“Anything from people in Glasgow that makes them feel at home,” she said.

Already she has received donations from Tunnock’s biscuits and Glasgow City Marketing Board’s People Make Glasgow range, as well a letters from after-school groups and residents. “Some of the letters I have received already have been phenomenal,” she said.

Robina Qureshi, from the Glasgow-based Positive Action in Housing charity, which helps refugees and asylum seekers, said community projects like Refuweegees were “always welcome”.

She added that Scotland’s positive reaction to Syrian refugees was “an example the rest of the country and the EU should be following”.

Extracts from some of the letters included in the Rufuweegee packs read: “Welcome to this funny, complicated, rainy, friendly, passionate city.”

Another says: “Welcome to Glasgow, but I must warn you about the bad weather.”

The first 100 Syrian refugees arrived in Scotland on November 17, under the UK Government’s pledge to take in 20,000 of the most vulnerable Syrians from refugee camps in Jordan and Lebanon over the next five years.

The first 1,000 are arriving before Christmas, and the Scottish Government has pledged to take in 400 of those, who will be housed in local authorities around the country with Home Office funding. Glasgow will be taking in between 110 and 115 of those coming to Scotland.

The Scottish Government has sought to alleviate concerns in the wake of the Paris terror attacks last month by reassuring that all the refugees to be relocated in the coming years have undergone security checks from the UN and the Home Office.

Police Scotland recorded 64 reports of racially or religiously motivated crimes across Scotland between the attacks and November 20.

However, there has been an overwhelmingly positive response to Syrians coming to Scotland from the public at large, with more than 2000 people offering practical support, according to the Scottish Refugee Council.

This article was first published by The National (15/12/15).

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