Refugees thriving on Bute

Barber Mounzer is just one of the Syrian refugees who has rebuilt his life on the Isle of Bute after fleeing the war.
Barber Mounzer is just one of the Syrian refugees who has rebuilt his life on the Isle of Bute after fleeing the war.

Councillors heard recently that Syrian families on Bute now regard the island as their home and are thriving since their arrival just two years ago.

At the latest meeting of Argyll and Bute Council members noted a report which outlined how the families have been welcomed with open arms by the people of Bute and how they have integrated well into the local community.

A total of 24 Syrian families have been resettled since 2015. Four babies have been born since they arrived, providing a welcome boost to the local population. More babies are due in the next few months.

The families are keen to provide for themselves and contribute to life on the island. One man has been successful in opening his own barbershop business. While two families have successfully secured funding and are hoping to open a patisserie and coffee shop in the New Year.

Leader of Argyll and Bute Council, Councillor Aileen Morton said: “The Syrian Refugee Resettlement Programme has been a great success, both for Bute and for the families involved. It’s heartening to see families settling and growing in the community to the benefit of all. This stands as testament to the local people and refugee families alike.

“But from day one this programme has been about helping families in desperate need to build secure lives in Argyll and Bute; it’s been about helping people fleeing trauma to feel safe and I am delighted that they now feel able to refer to Bute as their home.

“The families have settled into their new lives well, taking part in activities in the community, setting up their own stalls at the Sunday market, attending local events, and are keen to provide for themselves.

“All this wouldn’t have been possible though without the help and support of all the council staff involved, our partner agencies, volunteers and the local community.”

The refugees attend eight hours of English lessons per week and many take part in a skills for work programme with Argyll College. They have also been supporting a wide variety of local events and projects by volunteering.

The children have settled in well at Rothesay Joint Campus. The involvement of the school has very much been at the heart of the response and the support to the families, reflecting the school’s role in the community and acknowledging that the decisions our families made to come to the UK were to afford their children a safer and better life.