Scotland is standing by to play a “full role” in providing a home for Afghan refugees, MSPs have been told.
Speaking at Holyrood on Thursday, Angus Robertson pledged support to help those fleeing Afghanistan after the Taliban took control of the country last month.
The external affairs secretary made the remarks as he said that around 160 Afghan refugees have arrived in Scotland since June this year.
Earlier, the Scottish Government announced that it will offer £250,000 to help those in need as a result of the crisis.
“Six years ago, Scottish local authorities led the way in welcoming refugees fleeing the horror of the conflict in Syria,” he told the Scottish Parliament during a debate on supporting the people of Afghanistan.
“The first flight bringing refugees to the UK for resettlement landed in Glasgow, on a dark and dreich day in November 2015.
“At that time, few local authorities in Scotland had experience in supporting refugees. That’s no longer the case.
“I’m proud to say that in the intervening years, every local authority of every hue in Scotland has welcomed and support refugees.”
Robertson raised concerns that Afghans who contributed to British aid efforts are not being prioritised to be resettled.
He continued: “Scotland is therefore standing by to play a full role today in providing a home for Afghans.
“In principle, I very much welcome the UK Government’s announcement of the new Afghan Citizens Resettlement programme, as well as Operation Warm Welcome.”
Robertson added: “The Scottish Government is also deeply concerned about the fate of Afghans who contributed to British aid efforts, and supported Western efforts to enhance human rights, and are not prioritised for resettlement.
“We must support those who supported us and have been left behind.”
Setting out the action taken by Scottish local authorities, Robertson explained that a further 40 properties are currently ready to be matched with families who have recently arrived in the UK.
He said: “Before June 2021, five Scottish local authorities had already welcomed nearly 400 people under the Afghan locally employed staff scheme since 2014.
“From that point, and arrivals were stepped up in late June 2021, until the end of August, a further 43 families, that’s around 160 individuals, arrived in Scotland across eight local authorities.
“A further 20 families, that’s approximately 70 individuals, are expected to arrive in the first weeks of this month.
“Scottish local authorities have offered a further 40 properties thus far, we’re at a very early stage, which are ready to be matched by 40 more families who have recently arrived in the UK.
“To date, 18 local authorities have confirmed their commitment going forward, others are still going through internal processes to confirm their position.”
Robertson outlined his hope for cross-party agreement on the need to step up efforts to help refugees coming to the UK from Afghanistan.
He said: “As we debate today how best to support the people of Afghanistan, I ask that we all remember that a person’s right to leave in peace, dignity and security should not depend on what they can offer the economy of another country.
“That we ask ourselves if those were our mothers, daughters, sisters, brothers, sons, and fathers, what would we want another country to do to help?
“I believe Scotland is ready to help and we will act.”
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