23 Sep 2015

Refugee Crisis update

The people of Renfrewshire have shown time after time what big hearts they have always rallying to a call for help or backing an appeal for aid. So it is no surprise we are seeing such a huge response to the plight of the refugees in all our towns and villages. No one with an ounce of humanity could fail to be moved by the harrowing picture of the young Syrian boy, Aylan Kurdi, lying dead on a beach in Turkey. The stories of boat loads of refugees drowning in the Mediterranean are just shocking and almost beyond our comprehension. When we see destitute families sleeping in the open on Greek islands we might have visited, it starts to become more personal. When we watch desperate people, including children marching along European rail tracks and motorways, then we begin to realise the depths of despair which drives them. 

Unfortunately all too often, these poor people are fleeing conflicts that the West had a hand in. So for all sorts of reasons, including basic human decency and compassion, it’s right that we do our best to help. In the longer term we need stability and peace in the regions the refugees are fleeing, but in the short term we need to do something immediately to help. I’m proud that Renfrewshire Council will offer financial assistance through the Red Cross and practical support to help some refugees here in Renfrewshire. We know it needs to be limited, but every bit helps. I’m pleased that the UK Government has finally seen sense and increased its assistance. 

I welcome the commitment from the Scottish Government to do what it can, and I hope we can achieve cross party support to ensure extra resources from the Scottish Government to Councils to allow them to respond without cutting vital local services. Last week I spoke in the debate in the Scottish Parliament on the refugee crisis and there was complete unity about the need to respond in a positive and caring way. 

Already local people are responding magnificently, including Jade O’Neil, and they are busy collecting clothing and vital equipment to help those refugees at Calais. The Paisley Express is backing the project with a £500 donation. Renfrewshire Council has also set up collection points including Johnstone Town Hall and the On-X in Linwood. And local churches are putting their weight behind the campaign to help. Thanks to an initiative from Bishop John Keenan, I along with other local MSP’s, was able to join with Renfrewshire’s churches and councils to discuss how we could work together to help. It’s at times like this, when despite our own problems, or differences, that we can truly acknowledge the goodness and decency which exists right here in our own community.