SCoJeC joined with the Glasgow Jewish Representative Council, the Scottish Refugee Council, and Scottish Faiths Action for Refugees, to hold an event focused on refugees in Scotland.
This Day of Tolerance event took place as our contribution to Mitzvah Day, a Jewish initiative that calls on individuals and communities to contribute to change within our local communities. The meeting was introduced by Susan Siegel, the Chair of Garnethill Synagogue, who represents the Jewish Community on the board of Interfaith Scotland. She welcomed the speakers and other participants and said that the event was an opportunity to educate ourselves on the situation of refugees in Scotland and to take on board new approaches to how the Jewish community can actively take part and help.
The first speaker was Sabine Chalmers, who is the National Faith Groups Refugee Integration Co-ordinator for Scottish Faiths Action for Refugees. Her time is devoted to the New Scots Integration Programme, which runs until the end of 2021 and supports the integration of refugees through helping community groups to prepare to welcome refugees and involve them in community life.
Sabine began by outlining the situation of refugees globally and in Scotland – a situation that includes the hardships of leaving home, starting to settle within a new country, and attempting to integrate within a community that can feel quite hostile. Sabine then posed questions for us to consider: "What would you need to know or have if you were coming to a new country? What would you need to know or have to feel part of a community that you have just arrived in?"
These questions opened up a discussion for participants to reflect on what we would experience should we be forced to move country without the means and comforts that we are accustomed to, and what it would be like to move to a new country without a grasp of the language.
Following our discussion, Graham O’Neill, who is the Policy Officer of the Scottish Refugee Council, turned our attention to Glasgow as a welcoming city for asylum seekers. Graham walked us through the key legal provisions and instruments that implement the human rights that protect refugees, and outlined what is needed to support these individuals and families, specifically with regard to finance and accommodation.
Graham then asked us to consider what elements of support are needed for integration, how to overcome challenges and barriers to integration such as language, employability, and mental health, and what is the role of the host community to help bridge these gaps: “So what can we do? Act, Give, and Call for Change.”
The event ended with a discussion on the dreams we have for our community, how we would ideally like to welcome, include, support, and empower refugees, and what practical steps are needed for us to develop this support into a reality.