At the launch of Refugee Week 2011 last night (June 20), Deputy First Minister for Scotland Nicola Sturgeon gave a glowing speech of support for the event and for the makers of Courage, 60 Years of the UN Refugee Convention.
Sturgeon talked of how important it was for Scotland to continue welcoming refugees, especially in the tough economic times ahead.
She also applauded the courage and bravery of the six refugees who made this year’s Refugee Week film, Courage, which was shown later in the evening.
Watch Nicola Sturgeon’s speech for Refugee Week
UK Home Secretary Theresa May joins with Refugee Week celebrations
Meanwhile in London, UK Home Secretary Theresa May took part in Refugee Week by welcoming refugees who have come to Britain over the last 60 years to her offices for tea.
Among them were Scottish-based Carlos Arredondo, who fled Chile in the 1970s following political persecution, and Dr Akong Tulku Rinpoche who escaped Tibet in the early 1960s and has since founded the Buddhist centre Samye Ling near Lockerbie.
Akong Rinpoche presented the Home Secretary with a traditional Buddhist scarf of friendship.
Future of the UN Refugee Convention
Talking about the future of the UN Refugee Convention, Mrs May said: “One would always hope there was a world where it wasn’t necessary, but sadly it still is.”
The document was put in place in 1951 after the Second World War and gives people 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.
Mrs May added that she wanted to improve the UK’s immigration system for asylum seekers, saying that people needed to be given quicker decisions.
Quicker decisions needed in asylum system
“Sadly, what we’ve seen over the years is people finding themselves here for a number of years without knowing what their future was,” she said.
“The aim is to be fair to people. We want to be able to give them the right decision, but to do that within a timescale that is fair to them.”
Both Carlos Arredondo and Akong Rinpoche feature in the UNHCR/ Magnum Photos exhibition, ’60 Years, 6 Lives’ which is currently on show at Trongate 103 in Glasgow. The exhibition is accompanied by an online gallery, www.60years60lives.org