Coming home: Refugee puts human rights on the agenda this St Andrew’s day

Media Release

For release 28.11.09

Coming home: Refugee puts human rights on the agenda this St Andrew’s day

Professor Alan Miller, chair of the Scottish Human Rights Commission, met Patience Tsungu, a refugee from Zimbabwe, today as part of Scottish Refugee Council’s HOME visit scheme.

The visit has been timed to celebrate the final days of Homecoming 2009, and to put refugee and human rights firmly on the agenda this St Andrew’s day.

Scottish Refugee Council’s HOME visit scheme aims to highlight the difficulties refugees can face in finding a new home in Scotland – from racism to homelessness - as well as celebrating their contribution to Scottish society.

It was launched during Refugee Week Scotland 09, when playwright and artist John Byrne, musician Emma Pollock and Fiona Hyslop, Cabinet Secretary for Education and Lifelong Learning, met refugees Matta Matabaro, Amal Azzudin, Myriam Abedi and Fuad Warsame at their homes across Glasgow. A few months later 12-year-old Iraqi refugee, Yasher Kamal, visted footballer Georgio Samaras at Celtic Park’s home ground.

Patience Tsungu said: “As a refugee from Zimbabwe moving on with my life here in Scotland has not always been easy. Sometimes the system does not treat people as it should, asylum seekers and refugees come up against lots of problems from affording warm clothes for the winter and finding decent housing to dealing with racist remarks and encountering stereotypes and stigma when looking for a job.

“But most importantly I feel safe and secure here. I know I can come home at the end of the day, close my door and go to bed without being afraid of who may knock on the door in the middle of the night, or what might happen to me.  That means I feel positive about the future. The problems we face are things we can try to change.”

Professor Miller said: “Patience's experiences show us all that even in the year of Homecoming there is still some way to go in ensuring diversity is celebrated in Scotland, and making refugees and people seeking asylum feel truly welcome in our communities.

"I'm sadly not surprised by some of the experiences that Patience has had since arriving in Scotland. There is massive potential in refugees and asylum seekers which should be realised - we are wasting huge amounts of innovation, drive and ambition by letting that potential sit idle. St Andrews Day and the end of the year of Homecoming is a timely opportunity to reflect on that."

John Wilkes, chief executive of Scottish Refugee Council, added: “We are extremely concerned by the recent rise of the far right in Europe, the UK and Scotland and think this underlines the need for us to find ways to increase our understanding of each other. That is what the HOME visit scheme – which involved meetings between refugees and high profile Scots throughout Homecoming 2009 – aimed to do.”

Notes to editors

  1. For more information or pictures contact Scottish Refugee Council media officers Clare Harris or Karin Goodwin on 0141 223 7927/07734 030 763
  2. The HOME visit scheme aims to raise awareness of refugee issues and challenge negative stereotypes and is funded by the Big Lottery. It is a partnership scheme with Homecoming Scotland. The final events to celebrate Homecoming Scotland 2009 take place on St Andrew’s Day, November 30.
  3. Alan Miller will be speaking at Scottish Refugee Council’s Annual General Meeting on January 15.
  4. Scottish Refugee Council is an independent charity dedicated to providing advice, information and assistance to asylum seekers and refugees living in Scotland. It shares its aims with its counterparts across the UK, Refugee Council and Welsh Refugee Council. For more details go to www.scottishrefugeecouncil.org.uk