29th February 2020
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Syria vigil urges solidarity with displaced people

Around 40 joined the silent vigil to show solidarity with refugees at the Market Cross in Lerwick. Photo: Dave Donaldson

Around 40 joined the silent vigil to show solidarity with refugees at the Market Cross in Lerwick. Photo: Dave Donaldson

Around 60 people gathered at Lerwick’s Market Cross at noon on Saturday for the Shetland Sees Syria vigil to raise awareness of the plight of refugees fleeing their homeland.

People young and old and held placards, some reading “Wir aa wan tribe”, while others bore messages urging compassion and “help the human race”.

MSP Tavish Scott attended and showed his support, as did councillor Allison Duncan. He said he was there as an individual, and to support the council’s willingness to help people from the war-torn areas.

Mr Duncan said: “It’s so sad, people are dying on the landward side and the seaward side, families are losing loved ones.” He referred to the pictures of three-year-old boy drowned on a Turkish beach, and added: “I hope we never have to see that again…the western world should come together to stop the destruction and death.

Marianne Raikes from Ollaberry said: “Everybody’s got to do their little bit, sometimes you feel helpless in the face of the news.”

Julia Odie, who will soon be going to Moldova with Operation Orphan, said: “We’ve got to see more of Shetland coming together and supporting refugees.” While at the vigil she was crocheting together squares knitted by people from North Haven day care – these will form blankets for million-plus Syrian refugees in Kurdistan

Mrs Odie said 6,000 Syrian refugees had died of cold in Kurdistan last winter, and added: “There are thousands of refugees in Calais but 1.7 million in Turkey – the ones coming to Europe are the tip of the iceberg, the ones who can afford to pay the traffickers.

A simple message: Wir aa wan tribe. Photo: Dave Donaldson

A simple message: Wir aa wan tribe. Photo: Dave Donaldson

Radina Mackay, who is Bulgarian, said: “It’s appalling, the way the European governments have reacted to the war in Syria, we can’t just ignore it. We are one world, one people, and a political solution must be found so that we can all live in our own countries in peace.
“[People] think refugees are different people we have no responsibility for, but we are all citizens of the world.” However governments do not think like that, she added

French woman Nat Hall said: “It’s very ironical, we sell weapons to wage wars but don’t help victims of our own making.” France was the third biggest arms seller, she said.

Ms Hall added that the crisis in Calais had been going on for years but the French government appeared to be doing little about it. She said: “It’s inhuman to allow people to die in inflatable boats and be treated like animals. We are all human and man is inflicting this on his own kind. We may have a different language but we are one planet.”
She pointed out that people have always migrated, and these people are “fleeing from death”

Robin Black said the refugee crisis was part of a bigger problem, and “a political approach is needed” to ensure safety for people to stay in their own homes. He said: “I hope this is the catalyst for a bigger conversation to unravel the complexities of war.

And Nigel Hayward was willing to support refugees. He said: “Shetland is well-placed to receive refugees, there are people here with spare rooms, empty houses and open hearts.

He added: “The situation is unprecedented and governments need a new way of thinking, they can’t spend too much time worrying about practicalities, action is needed now, not months down the line.

Yell artist Jeanette Nowak, who made the placards, said she was there “to show solidarity with displaced people”, and Tina Grant, who first started the move to support refugees said she was delighted with the “excellent” turnout to the vigil. She added that men’s clothes, old blankets and sleeping bags were still needed for the appeal.

About Rosalind Griffiths

I am a Shetland Times reporter covering news, including health stories, and features. I have been in Shetland for more than 30 years.

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  1. Peter Long

    Well done all those kind souls. May each and every one of them be blessed.

    • Robin Stevenson

      Indeed Peter, couldn’t agree more, it is lovely to see such compassion, well done all.

      Scotland, a Nation of 5.3 Million people with an estimated 66 Million people of Scots extraction spread throughout the world, with a history of travellers, merchants, entrepreneurs and of course misplaced souls whether through the clearances or those sent to the colonies as “white prisoners” who are we to say to anyone from wherever in the world, that they’re not welcome?

      • Ali Inkster

        Oh dear Wrobin If you must cast blame for the slave trade try aiming a bit closer to home in future, your own dear glasgow was built on the blood of slaves. In fact scots held a very high proportion of slaves compared to the number of actual scots.

        Lets try and keep a little balance to your bigotry.

      • Robin Stevenson


        While I cannot deny that Glasgow was indeed built on the slave trade, let’s first ask “where did these slavers originate”?

        “We read of there being there being an estimated 25,000 slaves in Barbados, of whom 21,700 were white. The fair-skinned slaves were known as Redlegs or Redshanks by the locals because of their sunburned flesh.
        It was upon the sweat and tears of these unfortunate people that the British economy was driven forward and thrived”.


        It’s not bigotry Ali, it’s history

      • Ali Inkster

        Oh Wrobin stop digging, just incase you are in any doubt here is a peerie extract for you.

        Even Robert Burns was considering a position as a book-keeper in a plantation before poetry revived his fortunes. In 1796, Scots owned nearly 30 per cent of the estates in Jamaica and by 1817, a staggering 32 per cent of the slaves.

        “At any given time there were only about 70 or 80 slaves in Scotland but the country reaped the fruits of their labour in the colonies in the sugar, cotton and tobacco plantations.

        Many Scots masters were considered among the most brutal, with life expectancy on their plantations averaging a mere four years.

        Iain Whyte, author of Scotland and the Abolition of Slavery, insists we have at times ignored our guilty past.

        He said: “For many years Scotland’s historians harboured the illusion that our nation had little to do with the slave trade or plantation slavery.

        “We swept it under the carpet. This was remarkable in the light of Glasgow’s wealth coming from tobacco, sugar and cotton, and Jamaica Streets being found in a number of Scottish towns and cities.”

        And lets not forget Indentured servitude in the isles.

  2. iantinkler

    Goodness me, I agree with Robin Stevenson, however I must add, with amended statistics, the message he preaches, could be said for the entire United Kingdom, our friends in the USA, Australia, Canada, Europe and most of the free world democracies. It is good when people are united, horribly sad when divisions split people apart.

    • Robin Stevenson


      Just to add, these Scottish”White prisoners”, were courtesy of our English neighbours, whether through the the war of the Roses or the battle of the Boyne etc, incidentally, the value of a Scottish [or Irish] slave was 5 pound sterling, whereas the African slave had a value of 50 pound sterling. Good old Cromwell, United the Nation…lol…Aye right.

  3. iantinkler

    Never mind, Robin Stevenson, so sad about your anti-English version of history, is it xenophobia or paranoia? Certainly the stuff of centuries past. Remember, it was the Government of “The United Kingdom” (Westminster no less) which made history with the abolition of the slave trade. (Wilberforce). Westminster also took the power of the Scottish Lairds with the Crofting Acts which stopped the horrors of the clearances. Now divine right of kings, o yes, destroyed by Cromwell setting up true democratic government by parliament for the first time in history. As for Magna Carta, so, so wicked Albion, yet again. PS: whatever did the House of Lancaster and House of York do to enslave the Scots? Great is it not that Cameron has put more funds into supporting the war refugees of Syria than ant other country in Europe, sad that Germany did not match our funds especially as it has now closed its borders.(after encouraging so many to believe sanctuary might be found there).

    • Robin Stevenson


      History is history, being a part of the UK [as Scots] our ancestors had fought against the French, the Americans, the Germans, India, Africa, etc etc etc, [the list goes on].. Does this make me “Anti” all of these Countries or their Countrymen as a result?….. Not in the slightest, And yet, I mention England [who we also were at war with at one time] and all of a sudden you accuse me of being “anti English, xenophobic and suffering from paranoia”,…Get a grip and behave yourself.

      Scottish and Irish slavery was going on for centuries before its abolition in 1833, for once, please try to read a link:…..


  4. Chris Johnston

    ““Shetland is well-placed to receive refugees, there are people here with spare rooms, empty houses and open hearts.”

    This is at odds with last week’s article stating Shetland must build more housing for construction workers at the Anderson High School and Sullom Voe projects.
    Is Shetland prepared to be more accepting of refugees in Shetland than folk doon sooth, or is the support just talk?

  5. iantinkler

    Interesting article, Robin Stevenson, especially the line, “A famous history professor stated that history was not a science but a continuing investigation into the past; a person’s conclusion is based on their own bias.” With your so prejudist, anti-English Quotes , that line may have been just written about you. I have to ask, what century do you draw your prejudices from? You are quoting pre 1833, maybe time to advance a bit, time has moved on!!!

    • Robin Stevenson


      I have to congratulate you for managing [at last] to read a link.

      “History is written by the victors” [Churchill], It is only in recent years these untold stories are beginning to emerge, while the good professor may have said “a person’s conclusion is based on their own bias”, the word “bias” could equally be replaced with “interpretation”.

      It amazes me that we have – on one hand – certain individuals on this forum talking about Shetlands “historical” right to self determination and secede from Scotland, while blaming the Scottish Government for – somehow – being responsible, does this make them anti-Scottish, xenophobic, prejudiced and paranoid too then Ian?…When was that again? 1468? “Maybe time to advance a bit, time has moved on”.

      Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been called far worse things, but please, just don’t tell my English friends or family members. 🙂

  6. iantinkler

    It amazes me that we have – on one hand – certain individuals on this forum talking about Shetlands “historical” right to self determination and secede from Scotland, while blaming the Scottish Government for – somehow – being responsible,” Its is the concept of a “SNP government”, Nationalist, divisive with its “Days of Reckoning” which would make me go for a “Crown dependency” Robin Stevenson. We have too many examples from the SNP convenors and prospective candidates of vicious, anonymous, trolling not to see the nature of Nationalism!

  7. Mary Lindsay Wiseman

    I agree with Chris Johnston with regard to Nigel Hayward’s comment about Shetland people opening their homes to the refugees. It has been documented that ISIS has smuggled many of it’s members into the EU with the refugees & if not they would be mad not to take advantage of the situation. What about the security & safety of Sullom Voe – has anyone considered that?

    • Robert Duncan

      It has not been “documented”. It has been predicted, and many of those making such predictions have chosen to accompany them with completely false images claiming to be ISIS soldiers. In most of those I have seen the men in question were in fact former members of the Free Syrian Army, who are fighting AGAINST the so called Islamic State.

      Posing as a refugee seems a terrible way for a well funded military organisation like ‘ISIS’ to inflitrate Europe. There are surely far easier ways for them than hiking overland with almost no supplies but the clothes on their back.

      • Mary Lindsay Wiseman

        It may not have been “documented” but the Lebanese Education Minister, Mr Elias Bou Saab, has warned that 20,000 ISIS jihadis have infiltrated Syrian refugee camps.

  8. Robert Duncan

    I’ve seen many comments on social media from Shetland residents concerned about “our own housing crisis”, which strikes me as a complete diversion. We don’t have a housing crisis for those desperate for housing wherever they’re offered, we have a housing crisis for people who wish to live in or near to Lerwick.

  9. iantinkler

    Isis would not target Sullom Voe, they do not target economic or strategic targets, they go for people. Our North Boats would be a simple target, aircraft, pubs and the like. The Irish troubles were similar, the nature of terrorism is to terrify. Innocent people are always targeted, fortunately our security and intelligence services are usually on top of the problem, our own vigilance is always necessary. It must be remembered the refugees are nearly always the victims of terrorism, that is why they are fleeing fro Syria and Iraq in the first place. One or two may not be, it is up to us to be vigilant, no more, no less.

  10. Haydn Gear

    I’m not so sure about that Ian . 9/11 and 7/7 were just two examples of attack which destroyed material things as well as killing and terrifying innocent people. I know that wasn’t the work of ISIS but these types of terrorists will resort to any kind of action to further their objectives. My feeling is that a bigger worry is that of Russia creeping in through the back door.Assad doesn’t exactly seem to be opposed to what could become a long standing, threatening and deeply entrenched ” visit”. Beware the Russian bear.

  11. Ali Inkster

    I wouldn’t worry yourself about russia they have been dealing with the arabs with a great deal more wit than the US, the UK or the EU ever have or ever will. They understand how and who to deal with for stability in the region. And dealing with Assad is the only chance of gaining that result.

  12. iantinkler

    “they have been dealing with the arabs with wit” Ali, they did not do too well with Egypt, as far as Islam, they cocked up big time in Afghanistan, were genocide in Chechnya! They have lost far more people than the West ever have, civilians and military. What have they gained strategically, absolutely nothing, Assad is falling and failing fast. Putin is having to become dictatorial to stay in power, a military strongman bankrupting his own country. Haydn is right, a real danger, to all around him, so sad Salmond praised him. I wonder why Putin was for an independant Scotland? Enough said perhaps.

  13. Haydn Gear

    I’d like to think you are right Ian and I am totally wrong but Putin and his gang are not exactly renowned for behaving with wit and honest, forthright diplomacy with the Arabs or anyone else. They are a cunning bunch who play games according to their own rules and are not averse to bumping people off should they meet with difficult individuals or fail to tow the Party line. I don’t think the spirit of Stalin is dead. Would you or anyone you know be likely to welcome the Kremlin crowd into Shetland or even your homes? If so, why? And if not, why not? Nobody is likely to calm or control warring Arab states but the Russians are likely to try to gain a foothold.Why is so much military equipment and so many Russian personnel quietly moving into Syria? For reasons of humanitarian aid and attempts to bring about peace? Sorry, but I don’t see it in such a blinkered way.

  14. Haydn Gear

    Are you wearing blinkers Ian? The Russians certainly know how to persuade people of the errors of their ways!Just one word—— plutonium.As we all know, Vladimir Putin is a very fair minded,innocent gentleman and ex KGB agent. Not for one second do I believe that the spirit of that gentle Georgian Joseph Stalin is dead.The Russian bear still snarls and gobbles up what it can. Maybe they have learned a few lessons from their failure in Afghanistan. A softly, softly approach could be a wiser option, for their gain of course. We’ll see.

  15. Haydn Gear

    Apologies Ian (T) for mixing your name up with Ali (I). Hopefully this will not reach the pages of Pravda followed by a knock on the door at about 3am !!


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