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Thousands join Scottish vigils in support of refugees

Published 12/09/2015

Humza Yousaf called for refugees to be treated as human beings
Humza Yousaf called for refugees to be treated as human beings

Thousands of people have taken part in vigils across Scotland to show solidarity with refugees fleeing persecution and conflict.

Hundreds gathered in George Square for the Glasgow Sees Syria event, which had drawn huge attention on social media and sparked around three dozen sister events around the world.

Gatherings were also being held at other locations in Scotland such as Edinburgh, Dundee and Shetland.

Speaking in Glasgow, vigil organiser Alexis Stearns praised the "overwhelming" turnout.

Ms Stearns, a student teacher and mother-of-two, said: "Last week I just put a post on Facebook saying I would be here with a candle and the response has been incredible.

"I was contacted by people all over the world just desperate to make a show of solidarity.

"Hopefully it will send a strong message to those suffering that people care and we see what's happening, we recognise it and that we send them compassion and love."

She went on: "I'm proud of Glasgow. Our council is behind what we're doing. That doesn't go for everywhere and I think people need to put pressure on their councils to agree to take people."

Ms Stearns also called for a fresh look at the laws surrounding asylum in Britain, and she urged the UK Government to "stop using dehumanising language" about refugees.

She said: "The Government and media need to start thinking about how they are talking. No human is illegal, humans are not swarms.

"We need to start talking compassionately, with respect and with humanity and recognising that they are people with names."

The Facebook posting for the Glasgow event said it was to "tell our politicians that the people of Glasgow will not abide the Home Office decision to help so few refugees".

Many of those gathered opposite the City Chambers held banners saying, "Refugees Welcome Here" or "Aye Welcome Refugees".

They also lit candles in memory of those who have already died in their attempts to reach safety.

One of those who gave a speech at the event was the new city council leader, Labour's Frank McAveety.

He told the crowds: "This is a humanitarian crisis. There are many of us who came from all over Europe and the world to come and settle here. Scotland is a diverse nation and Glasgow stands ready to respond in the best way possible."

Also addressing the event was Humza Yousaf, Scotland's Minister for Europe and International Development.

He said: "I want to say very loudly and very clearly that the people who are coming here and those we are going to accept are not economic migrants, they are not immigrants, they are refugees. They are human beings.

"Anybody who has the audacity to think that people would travel across the Mediterranean and risk their children's lives for £35 and a food bank voucher, forget living on another planet, you live on another universe and you should be ashamed of yourself."

He added: "I'm here in defiance to all those comments, all those people you've heard from who've said to us, 'We're full up, you'd better put up the borders, there's no room here, let's take care of our own'. Well let's make it clear here - refugees are our own."

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