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.
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.