Scotland will sign up to Refugee Convention, Nicola Sturgeon pledges as Refugee Week kicks off

Deputy First Minister and Cabinet Secretary for Health, Wellbeing and Cities Strategy Nicola Sturgeon pledged her support for the lifesaving UN Refugee Convention today [Monday, June 20] as Refugee Week 2011 kicks off. She stated that if Scotland were to become independent, it would sign up to the Convention.

Sturgeon said: ‘The UN Convention – created 60 years ago, has become more vital than ever. It has already helped saved millions of lives across the globe, and as war and unrest continue to ravage our planet, it must continue to provide that protection.

‘Scotland has a proud history of welcoming refugees and if our people decide that Scotland should become independent the Scottish Government will sign up to the Convention.’

Refugee Week Scotland this year celebrates 60 years since the UN Refugee Convention was created. This lifesaving document was put in place in 1951 following the horrors of the Second World War and has saved millions of lives since. It gives people from all over the world the right to seek safety in a country other than their own if they are forced to flee their home due to persecution.

Support for Refugee Week Scotland film, Courage

Ms Sturgeon also gave her support to the Refugee Week Scotland short film, which is released across Scotland on June 20. Courage: 60 Years of the UN Refugee Convention was created by six refugees living in Scotland and will be screened at nearly 50 venues from Lerwick to the Lothians. She said: ‘I would like to pass on my congratulations to the makers of Courage – a powerful and moving film, which reminds us why we still need the Convention today.

‘They draw on their reserves of courage to escape the horrors of war and persecution and have made difficult journeys to get here. We need people like them in Scotland – to help us continue to build a diverse and energetic country for us all.’

Courage features two refugees who both fled war and persecution, but who have very different stories. It has been given glowing reviews by leading names in film and human rights, including James Mullighan, director of Edinburgh International Film Festival, actor Alison Peebles, film writer Mark Cousins and Liberty director Shami Chakrabarti.

Share Courage the film

The film is available to view and share via our website: It will be screened across Scotland with an exhibition of behind-the-scenes photos by Angela Catlin on show at The Arches, Glasgow, until July 12.

What people are saying about Courage

Alison Peebles, actor: ‘Courage is excellent and cleverly confounds expectations. In two minutes the film  proves you can never make assumptions about people who have fled to this country to escape persecution.’

Mark Cousins, film writer: ‘The film is beautiful in what it says and how it says it. A little two-minute movie poem.’

Janice Forsyth, presenter, BBC Radio Scotland Movie Café: ‘Please watch - in just two minutes, this powerful, moving film tells you everything you need to know about the importance of the UN Refugee Convention and how welcoming people in danger of persecution in their own countries, not only offers them a lifeline, it also enriches us, as individuals and as a nation.’

James Mullighan, Director, Edinburgh International Film Festival: ‘Congratulations to the makers ofCourage, a well-made and insightful mini documentary, celebrating 60 years of the United Nations Refugee Convention. The Edinburgh International Film Festival is proud to be playing its small part in Refugee Week, and to be hosting Courage’.

Shami Chakrabarti, Director of human rights organisation Liberty: ‘This poignant film reminds us not only of the refugees who have already been made welcome in Scotland, but of those still to come and the future lives to be saved by this vital document.’

Media contacts

For more information contact media officer Clare Harris on 0141 223 7927/ 07850 930418

For more information on Refugee Week Scotland go to

Notes to editors

1.  Courage: 60 Years of the UN Refugee Convention features Rosa Sacharin, 86, came to Scotland as a Jewish refugee from the Nazis and Christian Kasubandi, 22, fled war and destruction in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Together, they tell us why the Refugee Convention – created in 1951 following the Second World War – is so vital in saving lives now and for the future.

2. Courage was made by a group of men and women who all came to Scotland seeking safety. The six filmmakers, from as far afield as Pakistan, Afghanistan, Nigeria and the Democratic Republic of Congo, researched, directed, filmed and produced the two-minute documentary.Courage: 60 Years of the UN Refugee Convention was made with the assistance of Media Co-op and Scottish Refugee Council, with support from the Big Lottery Fund.

3.  Courage will be shown at the following venues on and after the 20 June:

  • The Arches, with a behind-the-scenes exhibition by Angela Catlin, until July 12
  • Glasgow Film Theatre, showing before films as part of ‘Journeys of Courage’ Refugee Week Film Festival throughout Refugee Week
  • Edinburgh International Film Festival, showing before Hoping and Between 2 Fires on Monday 20 June at the Filmhouse

For more venues, see our website:

4.    The 1951 Refugee Convention (and its 1967 protocol)  is the key international legal document defining who is a refugee, their rights and the legal obligations of states to refugees.

5.   Refugee Week Scotland is co-ordinated by Scottish Refugee Council.

6.   Refugee Week is a UK-wide programme of arts, cultural and educational events that celebrate the contribution of refugees to the UK, and encourages a better understanding between communities. Refugee Week 2011 will take place from June 20-26 at venues across Scotland. See

7.  The purpose of Refugee Week is to deliver positive educational messages that counter fear, ignorance and negative stereotypes of refugees, through arts, cultural and educational events that celebrate the contribution of refugees to the UK, and promote understanding about the reasons why people seek sanctuary.

8.   Refugee Week was first held in 1998, and was created in response to the increasingly negative perceptions of refugees and asylum seekers held by the general public in Britain. It remains the only UK-wide event that promotes the importance of sanctuary and the benefits it can bring to both refugees and host communities.