The local authorities in Scotland are to move ahead with the resettlement of around 100 Syrian refugees despite a racist backlash against their arrival in the wake of the Paris attacks on 13 November.
The group of Syrian refugees are due to arrive in Glasgow today (17 November) and are the first of 20,000 refugees due to arrive in the UK as part of a UN Vulnerable Persons Resettlement scheme. David Cameron has pledged Britain will receive 1,000 of the most vulnerable refugees from Syria before Christmas.
The refugees, mostly families, will arrive in Scotland against a growing backdrop of discontent and security fears which have been intensified by the Paris shootings and bombings. Opposition to their arrival has taken an aggressive and abusive tone on social media with the Scottish Defence League (SDL) holding a rally in the village of Monkton in South Ayrshire on 15 November.
Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has emphasised the need for unity following the attacks in France. Speaking after a moment's silence for the victims in a Glasgow mosque on 16 November she said: "I urge people not to let these terrorists win by dividing us and driving a wedge between the multi-cultural society Scotland is home to. We are stronger when united and that is one of our strengths.We are due to welcome Syrian refugees to Scotland tomorrow and we need to show that we are a country of compassion and acceptance."
Sturgeon and her own government have been targets for the abuse. Police Scotland are investigating threatening messages posted on Facebook and Twitter accusing Scottish minister for international development Humza Yousaf of supporting Isis and opening the door to terrorism.
However, councils that have accepted the refugees remain determined to welcome them with open arms and have looked to assuage safety concerns. A spokeswoman for Argyll and Bute Council, which will take 15 refugee families told IBTimes UK that the thoughts of the local council were with the people of Paris following the attacks, explaining that refugees had gone through extensive security screening which included biometrics, documentary evidence and interviews.
"Our plans have not changed in the wake of the attacks in Paris. What happened in Paris on Friday is the type of violence that these refugees are fleeing from and we are confident that they will be welcomed with open arms by our communities," the spokeswoman said in a statement.
The editor of Bute's local paper has been widely praised for his stance on the arrival of refugees in Scotland. In an outspoken editorial in the Buteman, Craig Borland addressed outcries over their arrival. He told IBTimes UK the attacks in Paris had not changed his mind.
"I would like to think that the events in Paris on Friday night will not change people's views.The poeple who attacked Paris on Friday night are not representative of the Muslim faith as a whole.
"Syrian families who will be coming here will have very little more than the clothes on their backs and I love to see the Island reproducing the welcome it gave me," he said.
Hundreds of vulnerable Syrian refugees will be brought from the Middle East on flights over the next few weeks. The refugees will be resettled in homes across the UK with the help of local authorities that have pledged their support to the scheme.
The Home Office has confirmed offers from more than 45 local authorities – stretching from the south-east of England to the north of Scotland, from the west of Wales to Northern Ireland. Talks are continuing with dozens more authorities who are keen to help as the scheme is expanded further in the new year.