Isles gearing up to help Syrian refugees

People showed their support for Syrian refugees in Lerwick last weekend. Photo: Dave Donaldson
People showed their support for Syrian refugees in Lerwick last weekend. Photo: Dave Donaldson

Local organisations and agencies in Shetland are gearing up for the possibility of offering housing and other services to Syrian refugees who flee to the UK.

SIC chief executive Mark Boden on Thursday asked the Shetland Partnership Board, comprising representatives from NHS Shetland, Shetland Charitable Trust, the council, police and voluntary organisations, to support a community approach to taking part in the Syrian Resettlement Scheme, which is an extension of the Vulnerable Persons Relocation Scheme. This was unanimously supported.

At the full council meeting on Tuesday members will be asked to vote on a motion from council leader Gary Robinson and deputy leader Billy Fox that Shetland should work with the Scottish government on a scheme to relocate Syrian refugees across the country.

In his report to the partnership board on Thursday, Mr Boden confirmed that early planning work had already been done by council officials to consider the impact of refugees would have on accommodation, education and health within the isles.

Mr Boden praised the community effort which had already gathered money and donations for the displaced people

After the meeting Mr Fox said the Shetland community had traditionally aided those in need and the community response so far in money and donations had been “outstanding”.

He said: “Shetland has always responded to crises.”

There had been several caveats in the report by the chief executive, Mr Fox said, including pointing out to the Scottish government that the cost of living in Shetland could be up to 40 per cent higher than on the mainland. And people with health issues could possibly be better resettled nearer to larger centres.

He said if any refugees came to Shetland the numbers would be low, and added: “A political solution has to be found.

Meanwhile a new group to support refugees has been set up during the last week. Called Shetland Supports Refugees, the group’s mission statement is: “To help bring together like-minded groups and individuals to facilitate the integration of refugees into the Shetland community.”

Organiser Wendy Sinclair said the group aimed to set up a support network for any refugees who may come to the isles. That would cover faith, education, language and offer friendship and integration into the community.

Mrs Sinclair said: “We aim to work as a community liaison for any refugees coming to Shetland, and hope to provide the people of Shetland who wish to help the refugees embroiled in the ongoing crisis with an opportunity to do so.”

She said that a number of people had indicated their willingness to offer accommodation to refugees. She added: “Where necessary, we hope to make this a reality.”

Mrs Sinclair attended the partnership board, and said was delighted that there had been “no negativity”.

However, she said taking refugees into the isles would take time, and people would be assessed to see if Shetland was the best place for them – if they had health issues, for instance, Aberdeen might be better

For more information contact Mrs Sinclair on 07340 936382 or email


Add Your Comment
  • Ian Mundie

    • September 18th, 2015 13:18

    Admirable sentiments indeed but something of a kick in the teeth for those locals who have been on council housing waiting lists for years in some cases.

    I was always under the impression that “Charity begins at home”

    • Sandy McMillan

      • September 18th, 2015 23:05

      Ian is dead right, Charity begins at home, First thing first, House our own who are on the waiting list for a home of their own, Before they house outsiders, yes they maybe refugees, but what does make our own folk who are homeless, They are in the same position and have probibly been waiting for years to get their first home, some of our own folk living in terrible condition, over crowding, with peerie bairns tae look efter.

    • Chris Johnston

      • September 19th, 2015 5:30

      “Charity begins at home” is trumped by the desire to appear chic, trendy, and avant garde.
      Similar to the situation in the US in the 1960s when Democratic (read as Labour) politicians were enamored by the Black Panther Party that was dedicated to the overthrow of the US Government.

      • Stewart Harmer

        • September 19th, 2015 10:26

        “”Charity begins at home” is trumped by the desire to appear chic, trendy, and avant garde.”

        One thing about this refugee crisis, it’s certainly brought out the worst in people.
        Apparently now it’s acceptable to suggest we should prioritise who gets help from the British people based on whether they are already in Britain or not, it also goes against what I thought was an essential part of being British, showing humanity to others less fortunate.

        I would also question your concept of helping the refugees as being ” chic, trendy and avant garde.” I know of people who gave up 20+ hours each, to spend last weekend sorting through donations, the donations included a bulk load from one of the accommodation barges in Shetland and contained anything from nearly new clothes to soiled bed sheets, there was nothing “avant garde” about these kind volunteers weekend I can assure you.

      • Brian Smith

        • September 19th, 2015 11:57

        Chris and Ian, give me your addresses and I’ll send you a pound.

  • iantinkler

    • September 18th, 2015 22:25

    A very hard choice, look after our own, or help the refugees? Our own, health threatened by Western lifestyles, more likely to die of obesity, alcoholism and tobacco related disease than anything else. The refugees, Isis, mass executions threatening, , sexual slavery, mass rape dispossessed and starving. Hard choice indeed, I know whom I would help, I can’t help but feel our own should be mostly able to help themselves, but then I am not a socialist.

  • Gary Robinson

    • September 19th, 2015 8:05

    Nobody has said anything about using council or housing association houses to house refugees.

  • John Anderson

    • September 19th, 2015 16:04

    I am all for individuals doing their bit but it sickens me if council money is used, just so some can feel good about themselves. I thought council money was for Shetlanders? As if its spend on pet projects like Syrians where does it stop? What about every other conflict? Do we have to spend money (that should be on old peoples homes and other council concerns) on them? or just the flavor of the month? Who deserves more?

  • Stewart White

    • January 17th, 2019 4:31

    It’s certainly commendable that you’d want to welcome refugees. I live in a place where many refugees from around the world have settled (California, USA), and many are among my closest friends. However, as they would agree, you really have to regulate both quantitatively and qualitatively in order to preserve the quality of life you have.


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