Refugees prepare for Christmas in Falkirk

Scotland has agreed to take 2000 Syrian refugees over the next five years
Scotland has agreed to take 2000 Syrian refugees over the next five years

Families who fled Syria are preparing to spend their first Christmas in Falkirk after being given refuge in the town.

Twelve months ago councillors unanimously agreed to accept those escaping persecution in the Middle East country.

Four families made up of 20 adults and children have been here for over six months.

In the next five years a further 30 refugees will be rehomed by Falkirk Council as part of Scotland agreeing to take 2000 people.

None of the refugees living locally want to speak about their experiences for fear of repercussion on their families still in Syria.

However, officials from Falkirk Council were able to give an insight into their first few months.

Fiona Campbell, the local authority’s head of policy, said: “These families are from different backgrounds and circumstances. We wanted to keep their arrival low-key and give them the privacy that any of our tenants would be entitled to.

“We have worked with our partners, including Forth Valley College, the health board, GP and dental services, to make the settling in process as easy as possible. The schools have been fantastic, very welcoming.”

She added that the council had learned lessons from other local authorities who had already accepted refugees.

“We found the banks particularly helpful in setting up accounts quickly to allow the people to receive the benefits they are entitled to. We had heard of problems elsewhere but the Falkirk branches were very helpful.”

The officials said the logistics of locating the families had been complex involving matching where there was accommodation available with school places and GP surgeries with patient spaces.

Elizabeth Hood, access to housing manager, said: “The females in the families want to see a female GP which was something else we had to 
consider. But overall the families have all been very resilient.”

Michelle Scott is the council’s refugee project worker who is dealing with the families on a daily basis.

She said: “You never know what each day will hold. There can be plans and then something happens and you have to deal with that straight away.”

Ms Campbell added: “There have been challenges for the families and the services trying to support them and there will be more in the future but we hope to make it as positive an experience as possible.

“These people are very vulnerable and we are always very aware of this in all our dealings with them.”