Midlothian restaurant owner offers aid to migrants

Matin Khan, owner of the Itihaas restaurant in Dalkeith. Picture: Andrew O'Brien
Matin Khan, owner of the Itihaas restaurant in Dalkeith. Picture: Andrew O'Brien
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AN award-winning restaurateur has pledged to offer free food and jobs to Syrian refugees.

Matin Khan said he felt compelled to help after seeing the tragic image of the drowned child on a Turkish beach last week – a photograph which captured the desperate plight of the thousands of refugees trying to make their way to Northern Europe.

A Syrian boy refugee stands at the fence inside a refugee camp in Roszke, Hungary. Picture: Hemedia

A Syrian boy refugee stands at the fence inside a refugee camp in Roszke, Hungary. Picture: Hemedia

Mr Khan, who has three restaurants in Midlothian, said he would be willing to employ up to ten migrants, as well as offering others free meals.

The Scottish Curry Chef of the Year, who came to Scotland from his native Bangladesh at the age of 14, said he would ensure the new arrivals were registered with Midlothian Council before employing them.

And he said he hoped that all local authorities across Scotland would do their fair share to support migrants arriving in the country.

“If a couple of hundred people came into Edinburgh or Midlothian, I could provide food for them for the first few days or weeks, and get some of them into work when they have paperwork,” he said.

“The refugee situation in Europe is tragic. Each of the thousands of migrants has a sad story to tell. I would like to help some of them by donating food and drink, and perhaps a job as well. They would be made very welcome here. I feel very sorry about it all. These people are not doing it out of choice – we really should stand by them.”

Mr Khan, whose Dalkeith-based restaurant Itihaas was voted Best Restaurant in Edinburgh and the Lothians at Scotland’s Asian Food Awards, added: “I’ve been thinking about this ever since I saw that picture of the little boy.”

The heartbreaking photograph of three-year-old Aylan Kurdi lying dead on a Turkish beach prompted international outrage over Europe’s migration crisis.

The image of Aylan – who drowned alongside his five-year-old brother and their 35-year-old mother as they desperately attempted to flee their war-torn country – galvanised people to take action, offer support and hand in donations.

Capital-based groups and charities have been inundated with calls from locals offering to host a refugee in their homes. A number of high-profile 
figures – including First Minister Nicola Sturgeon – have also said they would open up their spare rooms.

And Scotland’s faith leaders issued a joint statement calling for urgent action on the refugee crisis. The Catholic Church, the Church of Scotland, the Muslim Council of Scotland, and the Scottish Council of Jewish Communities, said more needed to be done to support the “countless thousands of refugees” fleeing war and persecution beyond Europe’s borders.

The statement said: “Our faiths in their different ways are rooted in the refugee experience, in what it means to be forced to leave a place where one’s very existence is threatened in search of somewhere safer. Our scriptures teach the importance of love and compassion for all who are destitute. We are concerned by the dehumanising language used to describe people who are so desperate that they risk their lives, and we share the belief that all people have an inherent dignity and right to life.”

Signed by Most Rev Philip Tartaglia, the Rt Rev Angus Morrison, Dr Javed Gill and Emphraim Borowski, the statement concluded: “We welcome the UK and Scottish governments’ willingness to offer a safe haven to these desperate people. We urge them to back this with practical action to help as many refugees as possible, and we call on our communities to support this and make them welcome.”

The faith leaders have pledged to meet early this week to discuss the additional support their communities can offer to refugees arriving in Scotland.