Category Archives: Refugee Stories

Glasgow’s Story: A very Scottish welcome

A Night of Notes (image courtesy of Owen Cook)

A Night of Notes (image courtesy of Owen Cook)

“I thought of the old bigot and the taxi man…do they really not understand? That refugee, asylum seeker, economic migrant…just make our Scotland so much more vibrant”              – extract from Tiff Griffin’s poem Nae Offence

It was a night to celebrate new arrivals, with Glasgow-based singers, songwriters and poets performing pieces inspired by locals’ welcoming letters to refugees.

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Maggie’s Story: A tiny Scottish charity in Arsal

Burnt out camp in Arsal, Lebanon in August 2014. Picture courtesy of Maggie Tookey

Burnt out camp in Arsal, Lebanon (August 2014).  Picture courtesy of Maggie Tookey

Cut off from the rest of Lebanon and accessible by just one road is Arsal, the battle front with ISIS of which you’ve probably never heard.

Largely abandoned by the Lebanese state, the north eastern town on the border with Syria has had to absorb, at a low estimate, over 80,000 Syrian refugees into its population of just 35,000.

At the height of its security problems, when all other aid groups had pulled out over safety fears, it was a small, volunteer-run Scottish charity, Edinburgh Direct Aid (EDA) that was first on the scene.

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Helena’s Story: A Scot in Lesbos

Boats off Lesbos

In the first 6 months of 2015, 137,000 people crossed the Mediterranean Sea into Europe. The vast majority, according to UNHCR, were “fleeing from war, conflict or persecution.”

A third of those men, women and children who made it across the sea into Italy or Greece were from Syria.

The journey is not for the faint of heart. In April alone, 1,308 people drowned or went missing trying to cross the Mediterranean.

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Aamer’s Story: A Syrian in Scotland (part one)

Aamer keeps a handwritten note in his bedroom. He found it alongside a donated microwave when he moved to Edinburgh last month. It was a welcome note, whose anonymous writer had wished Aamer all the best in his new life in Scotland.

Aamer is not one of the Syrians who have been flown to Scotland from the camps in Lebanon and Jordan. He fled Syria at the start of 2012 and hasn’t been back since.

Over the course of three years he spent time in Egypt, Turkey, Greece, England and now, having finally received his refugee status, has decided to make new life for himself in Scotland.

His journey is one of a young, relatively well-off Syrian man, studying computer science at university to a refugee, separated from his family and starting anew in a foreign country

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Marwa’s Story: A Syrian in Scotland

Marwa is from Aleppo in Syria.

The country’s largest city, and one that has suffered greatly in power struggles between the regime and rebel forces.  At the time of writing the sole supply route to the regime-held areas of the city has been cut off by an ISIS advance, leaving hundreds of thousands stranded with the price of basic goods sky rocketing.

Marwa’s father, sister and extended family are the city, suffering the day to day “hell” of existence there. She, however, lives in Scotland with her husband and children. She was here when the war broke out, working as a teaching fellow at a Scottish university.

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Wissam’s Story: A Syrian in Scotland

Wissam is frustrated.

We’re sitting in a cafe in Edinburgh talking about how he came here from Damascus. Our interview was less interview, more informal chat – aided by his friend Keefe who he met through Re-Act.

He jokes that she is his translator – she shakes her head and explains that they have been teaching each other one word here and there.

He twirls his finger by his head – “You remember?”  – “Majnun,” she replies.

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