Afghan refugees welcome in Midlothian say councillors

Harrowing footage of desperate families trying to flee Afghanistan was described as deeply moving by councillors as they pledged to support refugees who come here.

By Marie Sharp, LDR
Friday, 27th August 2021, 6:00 am
Midlothian councillors said they had been moved by watching footage of fleeing Afghans on the television. Getty Images.
Midlothian councillors said they had been moved by watching footage of fleeing Afghans on the television. Getty Images.

Midlothian Council is to write to the Scottish and UK Government offering to take in some of the thousands of refugees who manage to escape the new Taliban regime in their country.

At a virtual meeting this week they unanimously backed efforts to provide homes for displaced families with initial estimates expecting around 20 individuals to be resettled in the county.

Councillor Dianne Alexander (SNP) told how footage from the stricken country had hit home. She said: “There was a little boy, in particular, who looked exactly like my grandson. That really moved me and brought home these are people like us and we have to do everything we can to help them.”

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And Councillor Kelly Parry (SNP) said: “There is nobody who cannot have been moved by the scenes coming out of Afghanistan.

"As a human being, and particularly as a mother, watching women trying to get their babies over walls is harrowing.”

She added: “Twenty people is the absolute minimal of what we should do.”

Executive director Kevin Anderson told councillors that when the Syrian refugee scheme was introduced six years ago an estimated 40,000 people were expected to need resettlement in the UK and Midlothian pledged up to 40 places. He said the UK government expected around 20,000 Afghan refugees, which would equate to 20 coming to Midlothian.

Councillor Stephen Curran (Lab) said the county had stepped up in the past and would do so again.

He said: “We are seeing families not coming here for a better life, but just in search of the basic options we have every day, particularly women.”

And Midlothian Provost Peter Smaill (Con) recalled the words of former Prime Minister and Midlothian MP William Gladstone when he addressed an audience in Dalkeith more than 140 years ago during a different war in the stricken country.

Councillor Smaill said: “Remember when William Gladstone spoke in Dalkeith, he said the sanctity of lives of the people in the hill villages of Afghanistan is the same as those here.”​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​

Recent figures from the Refugee Council suggest that since 2015, 32 Syrian refugees have found homes in Midlothian.