Thursday 17 December 2015
Syrian refugees raised their voices in the Scottish Parliament today and got a fast reply from the First Minister. Within a couple of hours of two speakers requesting to meet First Minister Nicola Sturgeon to discuss issues they were concerned about, she said she’d be willing to hear them early in the new year.
More than 52 asylum seekers, refugees and local supporters of the group Uniting Nations in Scotland (UNIS), travelled from Glasgow to the presentation arranged by MSP Sandra White (Glasgow Kelvin).
UNIS is a charity organisation working closely with Police Scotland, BEMIS the ethnic minorities umbrella body, the British Red Cross, Findlay Memorial Church, Crossing Borders, Maryhill Integration Network, the International Women’s Group and the Inner Circle Men’s Group.
Two of the UNIS members gave speeches in the Scottish Parliament committee room. Feras Alzoubi – a father of three, who came with his family through the United Nations Vulnerable Person Relocation Scheme and Marwa Daher a 16 year old youth member of UNIS who arrived under the same scheme. Both praised the UK Government and the UN for helping them to be brought to safety. They also thanked the Scottish Government and local authorities for their warm welcome and the help they’d received from UNIS. But each touched on issues they felt needed more attention.
Said school girl Marwa Daher in excellent English: ‘We didn’t choose to leave Syria. But we had to. Danger had become our shadow.’ She was unable to attend school in Syria because of the war which claimed the life of her 15-year-old brother. She said she was quite happy in school in Scotland. But added: ‘I wish even more could be done for people like us to support us in our education. We still feel confused about the education system and other issues.’ She then asked to meet the First Minister to ‘share our experiences in order to resolve them and to make them better for the other children who are coming to the country.’
Electing to speak in Arabic, Feras Alzoubi said he was ‘re-born’ on the day he came to Glasgow.
After he and his family were left for dead in their home after hours of shooting, he escaped. ‘But my mother and brothers, unfortunately, are not protected by the UN Vulnerable Persons Scheme. They were left behind.’ He asked, therefore, for parents and other family members to be offered protection under the UN Scheme.
He was traumatised by his experience of being shot at and by the subsequent journey but – four months after arriving in Scotland – he is still waiting to see a consultant about his bullet wound injuries.
He added: ‘We know now that our children have a future here and we will contribute to building the economy of Scotland, but we ask the Scottish Government to recognise we Syrian refugees are people with a lot of experience and many skills. A programme to help us get into our previous types of work would be useful.’
Both speakers mentioned how helpful it had been to attend UNIS events to learn about Scottish culture, share their own culture and be informed by Police Scotland about the law in Scotland as they were anxious to stay on the right side of it.
UNIS leader and founder Mrs Ahlam Souidi launched a booklet ‘Celebrating Together’ containing the stories of many of the refugees who had been involved with UNIS and photographs of the social events held in conjunction with Police Scotland and other partners.
On her ‘to do’ list for the organisation are: setting up a Women’s Group which will address various issues including domestic violence; establishing training so that Syrian skills can be used effectively in Scotland; setting up a youth group.
Chief Inspector Alastair Muir of Police Scotland said there were many success stories to celebrate while police worked with asylum seekers and refugees. ‘But it takes time to integrate and then to trust,’ he said. ‘Police here don’t operate in the way police in other countries do. We don’t ‘do’ guns, for a start. We like to stress that New Scots are protected here. But it takes time to build relationships and for our message to get across that Police here will not tolerate intolerance – whether race, religion or domestic violence.’
The event at the Scottish Parliament was ably chaired by Mohamed Souidi who came to the UK at the age of one and speaks fluent Arabic, English and French. It was drawn to a close by Mr Alzoubi’s six year old son, Hamza, singing a Syrian song.
It’s as simple as ABC – Austerity, Budget, Conservative Catastrophe. Tories have a fixation that the lower echelons of society are eroding their power and wealth. How these ‘scroungers’ can be kept at bay is their excuse for austerity. Hence the budget which takes from the poor to give to the rich. But it will end in catastrophe for the Party which has allowed power to go to its head. Because the ordinary man and woman is not easily fooled.
So many more people have been politicised since the referendum, that the art of asking questions and seeking detailed answers online, in groups and from sources other than the trite Party statements, is now a universal, daily sport. And it is spreading rapidly to English voters becoming close to cricket and tennis in popularity.
While Westminster MPs can elect to say prayers every morning, they haven’t a prayer as long as they deny the basic tenets of every major religion. Most faiths call on their followers to ‘feed the hungry’ and ‘care for the widow.’
Instead this Government urges people to ‘go to the food bank’ and ‘get a job.’
But already the hungry are starting to grow their own food. And the widows are renting out their spare rooms to refugees to meet the bedroom tax.
The returns at Holyrood and then the local government elections will prove whether C is Conservative or Catastrophe. Right now, it looks as if they could be one and the same thing.
Deaf Connections in Norfolk Street, Gorbals, offers free lipreading classes to deafened and hard of hearing adults. Additional classes are held in Shettleston as well as in Clydebank, Hamilton, and the Vale of Leven.
These sessions are suitable for any adult with hearing problems whose first language is English. Qualified tutors can help them and also people who already have some lipreading ability as the tuition provides much more than learning to lipread.
An understanding of the different types of deafness people can have, how that is caused and best managed is shared. Advice is given on effective use of hearing aids which are bone-anchored or cochlear implants as well environmental aids. Lots of different ways to improve communication skills will be communicated in the classes which run all year round.
It is worth checking before hand to arrange an appointment or discuss individual needs so that each person make the right choice of class. Contact Carol Grice, Hard of Hearing Services Manager by email:firstname.lastname@example.org or follow the link for more information: http://www.deafconnections.co.uk/HearOn-services-for-hard-of-hearing-people/lipreading-classes.html
A new network has been set up to help reduce inequalities among people in minority ethnic communities.
Called Alliance Minority Ethnic Empowerment Network (AMEEN), it aims to provide advice and advocacy particularly in housing issues.
The brainchild of Sofi Parveen who is now Chairperson, and friends, it is designed to provide holistic support. Said Sofi: ‘Even though I speak fluent English, I found it frustrating not to be able to access the support I needed and to have to face inequalities in trying to find a job. This organisation will spearhead these issues. We aim to empower families from different cultures and backgrounds. By doing so we will make a powerful statement.’
Funded by Scottish Community Foundation, the group has a working base in Torrisdale Street in Govanhill. It has a drop in session in the nearby Larkfield Centre, Inglefield Street on Tuesdays from 1pm till 4pm and in St Ninian’s Episcopal Church, in Albert Drive, Pollokshields on Thursdays from 1pm till 4pm.
The volunteers who will provide the support for AMEEN clients will be trained and given personal development opportunities.
At the launch event, dramatised accounts of some real life experiences were acted out to show how advocacy can bring a suitable solution to sometimes difficult-to-handle problems.
Said Sofi: ‘Advocacy can play a powerful role in helping people resolve issues of unfair treatment or discrimination.’
Westminster MP Anas Sarwar, reaffirmed his commitment to helping disadvantaged communities in tackling inequalities. ‘He has been brilliant,’ said Sofi. ‘He understands the kind of inequalities we are confronting.’
MSP Hanzala Malik also attended the opening event. ‘He has expressed a supportive attitude,’ said Sofi.
The Housing Support Project aims to help families and individuals who are currently needing advice and support in housing matters. They will be offered free, independent, confidential and culturally sensitive help from AMEEN.
The organisation can be contacted on: mob 07403491660 or email:email@example.com Languages currently spoken include: Punjabi, Urdu, Arabic, Igbo and German as well as English.