Everyone should read Mhairi Black's message about helping refugees

Bethan McKernan@mck_beth
Thursday 19 November 2015 16:40
news

Scottish National Party MP Mhairi Black, who was elected in May as the youngest MP since 1667, has been busy in her first six months on the job.

Her constituency, Paisley and Renfrewshire South, will be home to some of the Syrian refugees who landed at Glasgow airport to start new lives in the UK on Tuesday.

Glad to see so much vocal support (especially online) for the refugees arriving today. #RefugeesWelcome

Posted by Mhairi Black MP on Tuesday, 17 November 2015

For her part, Black welcomed the new arrivals - but the xenophobia and racism their arrival stirred online did not escape her notice.

Many people commented on 'Aye Welcome Refugees' posts from her Facebook page to criticise the decision to take in Syrian families relocated from Jordan and Turkey, citing Scotland's own problems with poverty and homelessness.

But as Black pointed out in an impassioned reply on her Facebook page yesterday:

Helping the homeless people on our streets and helping those who are suffering unimaginable tragedies in their home countries are not mutually exclusive. It is not a choice between one or the other.

In the lengthy message Black pointed out although homelessness is never an acceptable situation, the government is committed to alleviating the problem. Besides which, she wrote, the definition of 'homelessness' is wide-ranging: it doesn't necessarily mean people are "sleeping on the streets."

She also urged her constituents to remember:

[Refugees] have had to endure so much to reach this country, and abandon everything they had ever known... We have a duty as human beings to do all we can to protect and shelter people who face the very kind of threats and attacks which appalled us so much in Paris in their everyday lives.

Read her post in full below.

Helping the homeless people on our streets and helping those who are suffering unimaginable tragedies in their home countries are not mutually exclusive. It is not a choice between one or the other.

To all of you who have expressed worry about the homeless in this country, I share your despair at the situation many people find themselves in. However, it is worth remembering that due to the definition of homelessness in Scotland, the figures quoted refer a wide range of people in varying circumstances such as those staying with friends or family, living in overcrowded conditions, or living in poor conditions that affect their health. The idea that all homeless people in Scotland are sleeping on the streets is misguided and inaccurate.

That is not to imply in any way that this is any more acceptable but it is an important point to highlight. It is also worth noting that despite continued cuts from the Conservative Government, The Scottish Government are making great strides in reducing homelessness, including making sure that all those assessed as unintentionally homeless by local authorities are entitled to settled accommodation as a legal right. Certainly in my constituency homelessness has dropped 4% in the past year, and 34% since 2010. But I must again reiterate that one homeless person is one too many.

Still I refuse to let any opportunity to do good pass by. When we have a Westminster Government so determined to do ill by people, I will not stand by and watch people suffer just because they were born in a different country.

I implore everyone remember that these people are running from the terrorism and extremism of Daesh. They are fleeing the very people behind the attacks in Paris and Beirut. How could we turn our backs on them, when all they want is to live peacefully and without a fear for their lives?

To those who state that “no one wanted refugees”, you should know that hundreds of my constituents contacted me after the chilling images of Aylan Kurdi hit the front pages in September. Even more got in contact outraged at the pitiful number of the refugees the Government announced they would take.

Also, so people are aware, when refugees arrive in this country they have been through a two-stage vetting process. One by the Home Office and another by the UN including the taking of biometrics, documentary evidence and interviews. They have had to endure so much to reach this country, and abandon everything they had ever known. It is no easy task to become a refugee in these islands, and so for those that make it we must welcome them with open arms. They have been through enough. To pour ignorant bile and thinly veiled racism onto social media is cruel and so disappointing.

We have a duty as human beings to do all we can to protect and shelter people who face the very kind of threats and attacks which appalled us so much in Paris in their everyday lives. If we believe terrorism is wrong in Paris and that we must stand in solidarity and help the innocent affected in France, then we must also apply the same principles to the innocent people fleeing that terrorism. Terrorism is wrong no matter where it occurs or who it is against.

I must commend the number of gracious, well informed and kind comments which I am glad to say outnumber those of utter ignorance. A number of the Syrian Refugees are staying in my constituency, so I can speak for myself and all those who have posted positive comments on my page, a big welcome to all refugees and I hope they will finally find some peace, safety and comfort in our inclusive country. No amount of bashing on Facebook is going to change that.

Helping the homeless people on our streets and helping those who are suffering unimaginable tragedies in their home...

Posted by Mhairi Black MP on Wednesday, 18 November 2015

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