Born in Somalia, Amal has a BA in Community Development and an MSc in Human Rights and International Politics. She currently works with Mental Health Foundation in the role of Equality and Human Rights Officer (Refugees).
Amal is known as a passionate human rights campaigner. Within the Mental Health Foundation, she takes responsibility for the Amaan project and the development and delivery of new and innovative work with asylum seekers and refugees.
In 2016, Amal was named as one of the Saltire Society’s Outstanding Women of Scotland, alongside such illustrious company as JK Rowling and Annie Lennox.
Amal is well known as one of the Glasgow Girls, a group of seven school girls from Drumchapel High School who campaigned to stand up against dawn raids, detention and deportation of asylum seekers in Glasgow. The Glasgow Girls story has since been turned into two BBC documentaries, a stage musical and a television musical drama.
Amal has visited refugees in Greece and Calais and is frequently engaged as a speaker at different events, raising awareness on refugee issues.
In Amal’s words
“As a passionate activist on refugee issues, I have previously supported the work during Refugee Festival Scotland and other events. Scottish Refugee Council staff also know me through joint working with Mental Health Foundation – Sanctuary Steering group.”
Alison is UNESCO Chair for Refugee Integration through Languages and the Arts and Professor of Languages and Intercultural Studies at the University of Glasgow where she co-convenes Glasgow Refugee Asylum and Migration Network.
She is a passionate advocate for refugees and asylum seekers and blends her academic research and teaching with her activism and public work. She has held a long interest in ways in which communities of established and new arrivals can create a joint sense of belonging and joint sense of integration by being involved in creative activities. She first researched this in her PhD in southern Germany after the fall of the Berlin Wall, and during the Balkans war and refugee arrivals from that conflict.
After working to establish an International Academic Association for Languages and Intercultural Communication (2000) she turned back to volunteering and became a visitor with Scottish Detainee Visitors (2005), and then a volunteer host with Positive Action in Housing (2007). With Professor Rebecca Kay, in 2009 she established GRAMNet at the University of Glasgow. In 2017 she took up the UNESCO professorship, the first in the world, in Refugee Integration through Languages and the Arts. Here she also partners with the contexts outwith the media ‘hotspots’, where it has been possible for large numbers of refugees to arrive, integrate and live harmoniously and without the fear and xenophobia which has been experienced in recent years in the UK.
She is particularly concerned with the experiences of women and young people, and separated families in the asylum system and in the precarious journeys made to seek safety.
She has worked in many countries worldwide, through many languages, as a leading researcher and has a strong international community experience. She meets the same issues and the same resilience wherever she travels and now engages regularly as a public intellectual with media and policy discussions whilst at the same time being fully committed to living with those who are newly arrived and in need of a place to call home, and call family.
Alison is a member of the Iona Community, a poet and public speaker as well as a public intellectual. She is well known to the advocacy and activist communities working with and alongside new arrivals, refugees and asylum seekers in Scotland.
In Alison’s words:
“I’m delighted to be able to serve in the capacity of ambassador for Scottish Refugee Council. It is a genuine privilege to work with an organisation which strives for mutual integration and respect for those caught up in precarious legal and humanitarian situations.
“As a foster parent to my daughter who came to Scotland as an unaccompanied minor from Eritrea, I’ve experienced first-hand what it means to live within the refugee and asylum systems. I have seen what it means to live through the agony of family separation, detention, destitution, eviction, drowning, captivity and of mourning those who are lost on the journey and to the systems of detention and destitution.
“But, I’ve also learned of the ways in which communities of New Scots flourish, celebrate the lives they have and the family connections they can establish here and how much we have to learn about living interculturally and multilingually .”
Jim Snedden has worked for the Scottish Fire & Rescue Service for twenty years. A specialist in swift water rescue, Jim is watch manager at Dunblane fire station and trains other firefighters in his role as swift water rescue instructor.
Over the summer of 2015, Jim, like many people, was shocked by the images of people drowning in the Mediterranean Sea. Over his twenty-year career with the Scottish Fire Service, particularly in his role as a swift water rescuer, he knew better than many people about the dangers at sea.
International humanitarian charity MOAS heard about Jim’s skills and reached out to him. MOAS was coordinating rescue missions in the Mediterranean with international crews and asked if Jim would consider supporting their rescues. He agreed and over the course of that summer took part in numerous rescue missions off the coast of Libya, helping to rescue 2000 people in one day alone.
In 2017 Jim was recognised for his courage and compassion as winner of the Sunday Mail Great Scot Awards. Read about Jim’s involvement in Mediterranean rescue missions.
In Jim’s words:
“It completely changed my outlook. Now I know a bad day for me here is a good day really in the bigger scheme of things. I’ve joined Scottish Refugee Council because I want to find out about the next stage in people lives and help how I can. I’ve realised that the dangerous crossings at sea are just one stage of people’s journeys. I thought naively that getting people to dry land safely was the end of the story, that things would work out OK for the people I rescued. Now I know that’s just one part of the story and a whole other journey begins for folk once they are here in a foreign country with all the trauma of what they experienced en route and that they fled in the first place.”