LAST December, it was revealed Scotland had met its target to provide homes for its intake of Syrian refugees three years ahead of schedule. First Minister Nicola Sturgeon’s proud declaration that “Scotland is an open and welcoming country” was tempered by an acknowledgement that the UK’s acceptance of 10,000 refugees was tiny compared to neighbouring European nations.

Glasgow, the first in Britain to welcome Syrian refugees since the current crisis began, has accepted more refugees relative to population than any other local authority.

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One of the most overt examples of Glasgow’s hospitable spirit in action is the community-led charity Refuweegee. Since launching in December 2015, the charity has delivered more than 2000 personal welcome packs to forcibly displaced people arriving in the city. As well as containing essential items such as toiletries and stationery, the packages include toys, clothing and personalised “letters fae the locals”.

Refuweegee is set to host an end-of-year fundraiser on Wednesday, alongside fellow charity Music Broth.

The National:

The activists involved will reflect on a year in which 3000 people received clothing, footwear and toys thanks to the generosity of Glasgow donors.

Selina Hales, founder of the charity, now estimates 120 welcome packs and 30-40 push chairs are provided every month.

“When I launched the charity, I thought it would be a nice thing to do,” she said. “But Glasgow responded and just ran with it. We now run two large pop up events – at community spaces in Kinning Park and Garnethill – every month because of how many donations we receive. That gives people the opportunity to choose which items they need. No one’s asked to provide evidence – you just come along.

“We see the best side of Glasgow on a daily basis: we receive beautiful letters by the hundreds and the response from volunteers is amazing.

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‘‘We do live in this positive, equitable bubble where it’s easy to say Glasgow is amazing. We do try hard to step outside of that. Like everywhere else, Glasgow has huge problems with negativity and ignorance, but it’s because of a lack of information about what the refugee experience actually is. We try and challenge that where possible.”

Despite the outpouring of support, Hales is right to suggest the picture is not as rosy outside the bubble. Research by Ipsos Mori in 2016 found 47% of Scots were sceptical of the reasons for refugees settling in Scotland. This year has served as a reminder refugees and asylum seekers are inundated with challenges and threats.

A July inspection of Dungavel House, Scotland’s only immigration removal detention centre, revealed dozens of torture victims had been refused release despite expert medical advice. In the same month, a teenager pleaded guilty to the attempted murder of the Shabaz Ali, a Syrian refugee in Edinburgh. In Glasgow, 300 Glasgow-based asylum seekers faced imminent eviction after the private multinational firm Serco announced plans to lock them out their homes.

The National:

The scale of the response by local activists was phenomenal as hundreds joined protests organised by charities such as Govan Community Project and Positive Action in Housing. The tenants’ union Living Rent amassed a database of over 500 activists willing to take direct action around the clock to defend those at risk from eviction agents, and negotiated with local housing associations.

The tactic worked as Serco postponed the evictions and a lawsuit was brought against them by Govan Law Centre. However, the private housing provider said it welcomed the court challenges as it would “bring clarity to an area of law that some people feel is unclear”. The pending legal challenges are expected to be heard next month.

A key component of an ongoing campaign by Living Rent has been personal outreach in the communities where refugees and asylum seekers are placed. Leo Plumb, an organiser with Living Rent, is leading a campaign to build organisational structures in local communities and foster solidarity on a more permanent basis.

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“We want to speak to people who’ve lived all their lives in their areas and suffered their own injustices so they can come together and be a part of a movement,” he said. “The lesson we’ve drawn is that the Home Office’s hostile environment policy is trying to implicate people in all walks of life to make life difficult for refugees and asylum seekers that move here.”

On the front line, trying to make arriving refugees’ lives less difficult, are the long-running Integration Networks spread around the city. Centres in Garnethill, Govan, Pollok, Scotstoun, Govanhill, Cranhill and Maryhill provide everything from information and advice to English classes and community activities. Pinar Aksu, a development officer with the Maryhill Network and a former asylum seeker herself, believes the most encouraging aspect of 2018 was the collaboration between different groups.

“It’s all about connection,” she said. “Glasgow has a history of activism, not just within the refugee community but across groups and issues. We usually take action together.”

On Thursday at Maryhill Community Centre, volunteers are putting together arts and crafts filled gift boxes for over 200 young Glasgow-based refugees. The project, set up by Aksu and fellow activist Suki Sangha, is made possible by monetary donations and collections of stationery, empty shoe boxes and gift bags.

Refuweegee’s fundraiser at Drygate in Glasgow on Wednesday, with musicians and poets such as Becci Wallace, Jackal Trades and Liam McCormick performing, costs £5 to attend and begins at 8pm.

Hales said: “Food, arts and crafts and shared experiences are all ways of bringing people together.”