Moray welcome has made life more secure for Syrian refugees

Shuna with a Syrian refugee family she met on a trip to a camp on Chios.

SYRIAN REFUGEES WHO have settled to a new life in Moray are feeling right at home thanks to the warm welcome they have received from the local community.

Moray was one of the first regions in Scotland to offer new homes for refugee families fleeing their war-torn homeland. Five families were resettled in Forres – with support being coordinated by the community efforts of the Moray Supports Refugees group.

That was formed days after the UK Government had agreed under international pressure to accept refugees from the Syrian warzone – several individuals and groups in Moray came forward offering help, so with the support of Moray Council the formal group was formed.

Led by Aberlour Church of Scotland minister Shuna Dicks, Moray Supports Refugees quickly gathered the skills and materials required not only to help those families arriving in Moray, but in support of those who were not so fortunate and remained in camps around Europe.

The five families in Moray are amongst 1200 refugees for whom doors have been opened in Scotland – and any fears they had about moving so far north were quickly dispelled. Shuna said: “Last week I attended a meeting of the Syrian families who are now settled in our area. They love it here – they feel welcome and safe and they feel at home.

“Which was wonderful to hear – one of the men declared he was now Scottish and proudly so. They still have a way to go before the can fully integrate but they have come a long way and not just geographically.”

Shuna gives credit to Moray’s Community Planning Partnership and Moray Council for working with Moray Supports Refugees in ensuring that families arriving here had everything they needed.

She said: “MSR were able to play an important role by arranging for clothes, toys, prams and buggies, welcome cards, welcome gifts and food were in the homes waiting for the families on their arrival.

“Knowing that local people had donated things for them and wanted to make them feel welcome was important. One of the welcome gifts we were able to give each family member was a hand knitted blanket.”

That was the result of contact with a local lady who, along with several friends, had been busy creating crochet blankets – many of which have since been used the MSR’s efforts to help and support refugees in camps.

Looking back over the last year, Shuna said that she keeps going back to a phrase she read – “we all live under the same sky”. She said: “This spurs me on to keep doing what our group does, caring for our neighbour that we share this sky with.

“People just like you and I, whose circumstances have been changed for ever. When you become a refugee your life is reset to zero and you have to begin again – compassion and love are the least we can offer our new neighbours.”