Hundreds to welcome refugees to Edinburgh

Nicola Melvin says the response has been fantastic. Picture: Julie Bull
Nicola Melvin says the response has been fantastic. Picture: Julie Bull
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THREE women from Craigmillar who announced plans for a support group for refugees due to come to the Capital have been flooded with backers and volunteers eager to help.

Within 24 hours of starting a Facebook page, the group – called ONE – had 300 members and after a week, that now stands at 500.

Lyndsay Nolan-Martin, 37, her daughter Shannon Nolan, 20, and friend Nicola Melvin, 32, decided to act after seeing TV coverage and reading reports about the plight of desperate people fleeing Syria.

The city council has announced that Edinburgh will be taking in 100 Syrian refugees over the next 12 months, with the first ones expected to arrive before Christmas.

Ms Melvin, who has a background in organising conferences and events, said: “We were really touched by the heart-breaking stories and decided we wanted to do something.

“And the response has been fantastic. It’s so encouraging and heart-warming that there are so many people out there who also see this as a big issue and wanting to make the refugees welcome.”

She said despite all the coverage of the refugee crisis, not much thought seemed to have been given to what happens when they arrive here.

“These people have been through horrific ordeals. They are essentially having to rebuild their whole lives.

“We want them to know they are not alone, and as compassionate people we will welcome them and offer them help and support to integrate into our communities.”

She said ONE aimed to greet them with “a friendly face, an open mind and a warm heart”.

The group is already compiling a database of volunteers and looking at applying for charitable status. Its first committee meeting, on Friday, is expected to agree the scope of what it hopes to do.

It is likely the group will focus on four strands of work:

• Befriending refugees by matching them with people of similar age and interests, who can show them round the city, answer their questions and give general advice

• Advice and support, including giving information on language courses, counselling services and applying for jobs

• A regular get-together for refugees to meet and share experiences

• An education programme to foster more positive attitudes towards refugees and break down barriers

Ms Nolan-Martin said the response meant the group was expanding before it had even started.

“We initially thought of doing it just in our area of Craigmillar but our members are from all over, so we want it to be for the whole of Edinburgh. The amount of support is unbelievable.

“We are hoping to connect with all other groups similar in Scotland so Scotland stands together to help refugees join all our communities and integrate fast to give some normality in their lives.”