Bute Council is delighted with the way the Syrian families have settled – but more especially with the manner in which they have been taken to the heart of the community.
Angela Callaghan formed part of reception committee on the island to help the refugees settle and feel welcome. Two years ago she expressed optimism that the Syrian families’ experience of Bute would be a happy one.
“These people will become part of our community and will not have much time when they arrive to organise meals. I know what it’s like, and it’ll be no different for them, so we’ll all rally round,” she said then.
A vocal scarecrow faction had tried to stir up suspicion and to organize a backlash, but they were repelled as a sense of Scottish decency and goodwill prevailed. There are still remnants of unpleasantness, but those who espouse it are very much a minority in the community. The refugee families are living in spare capacity housing, and nobody’s way of life or entitlements has been adversely affected.
The only moment of jeopardy came when some media outlets released the name of a suspect in the London bombing along with a photograph of him aboard the Bute ferry. He was very quickly released without charge, but a minor frenzy erupted about Isis bombers hiding among refugees. The furor rapidly receded.
Graeme Murdoch, a photographer and designer who lived on Bute for a few years, said: “The Syrian families arrived on Bute not long after I pitched up on the isle, and one of my thoughts was: ‘Ah, one of them might open a decent restaurant in Rothesay.’ I met many of them during my time there and found a generosity of spirit, despite all that they had suffered, which initially wasn’t returned by very many.
The council leader, Aileen Morton, said: “The Syrian refugee resettlement program has been a great success, both for Bute and for the families involved. It’s heartening to see families settling and growing in the community to the benefit of all. But from day one this program has been about helping families in desperate need to build secure lives; it’s been about helping people fleeing trauma to feel safe, and I am delighted that they now feel able to refer to Bute as their home.”
11m Number of Syrians who have fled their homes since the outbreak of the civil war in March 2011.
3.3m Turkey hosts the largest number of registered Syrian refugees – 3.3 million – while Lebanon hosts 1.1m, and Jordan 660,000.
6.6m Number of people internally displaced in Syria.
1m About one million Syrian refugees have requested asylum in Europe. Germany, with more than 300,000 applications, and Sweden with 100,000, are the EU’s top receiving countries.
9,394 Syrian refugees resettled in Britain, in spite of support for greater numbers.