Seven months after fleeing their war-torn home country of Syria, the 15 families who were settled on Bute are reportedly adjusting well to their new way of living, despite recent national media reports to the contrary.
The families, which are made up of 28 adults and 31 children, were relocated to the island through the UK Government’s Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Scheme back in December. Since then a number have made real progress in their new island home, ranging from finding full-time employment and gaining qualifications to volunteering with community-based projects.
Talking about their new life on Bute, one of the refugees told The Buteman: “The island is quiet and wonderful. I love the island and its people.
“Its tranquillity is good for those who are stressed and those who had difficulties in the past.”
The majority of refugees are actively learning English and for those who want to there are opportunities available on a daily basis.
Of the 26 individuals needing help with the language, all except a small minority have regularly attended classes. To date, nine have achieved ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) SVQ qualifications, and 15 have received a certificate of achievement to mark their progression and attendance.
Some of the refugees are already in full-time employment, a number have summer jobs and several have applied for college courses. Five of the refugees have recently completed a Skills for Work programme.
They have also had the opportunity to gain work experience with a local business, a group has been volunteering to help create a community garden in Rothesay, and several are volunteering to help with setting up the site for this weekend’s ButeFest music festival.
Due to the ambition shown in obtaining employment and following on from the success of the relocation, the Rothesay refugees are the first group chosen in the UK to take part in a pilot programme to support those that would like to set up their own businesses.
Almost 60 local volunteers have also been giving up their free time to help make the transition easier for the families and have helped in various ways, including helping them to learn English and accompanying them to hospital appointments – something which Argyll and Bute Council has said it is “extremely grateful for”.
Cleland Sneddon, Chief Executive of Argyll and Bute Council said: “We have been able to create employment opportunities to support the families settle into the community and support their children in school. The help and assistance we received from the people of Bute has made this much easier for the families.
“We want the refugee families to put down their roots in Argyll and to feel part of the community.
“We want them to have a future here.”