Anyone can be a refugee: GAU message to MSPs

'We're a' Jock Tamson's bairns... Every one of us is equal'

Glasgow Afghan United is deeply saddened by the UK Government’s decision to send asylum seekers to Rwanda. 

As a statement of our values and commitment to human rights, we publish here the speech given by our managing director, Abdul Bostani, to Members of the Scottish Parliament and honoured guests at a recent GAU event in Holyrood. This event was held to provide an official welcome to new Afghan refugees.

We will continue to work for asylum seekers and refugees and raise their voice.

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“Ladies and gentlemen, Members of the Scottish Parliament, honoured guests, my name is Abdul Bostani. I am the director of Glasgow Afghan United, and on behalf of our organisation I would like to welcome you all to this very special event to Welcome New Afghan Refugees to Scotland.

“It is an honour to stand here together in the Scottish Parliament to give this official welcome to men, women and children who have joined us from Afghanistan.

“The Scottish Parliament is their parliament too; it belongs to all the people of Scotland. The decisions taken here affect all of our lives, regardless of where we were born, and thanks to the extensions to the voter franchise, refugees now have a say in who represents them here.

“As the old saying goes, we are a’ Jock Tamson’s bairns. Newly-arrived people in Scotland may not know this phrase. Its meaning is simple: it is one of unity – it means everyone in Scotland is part of the same family. Everyone of us is equal.

“It is this message that we send to New Afghan Refugees in Scotland – you are equal here. You have joined us and become one of Jock Tamson’s bairns. You are part of the family of this nation.

“New Afghan Refugees to Scotland have arrived in terrible circumstances. They have had to flee their home country because the Taliban has taken over again. They have arrived with few belongings and endured a chaotic evacuation, the separation from friends and loved ones, the stress of leaving, the guilt of having left. Trust me, I understand this. I myself came to this country as a refugee. I was 18 and I was alone, but I found community here.

“And I know very well what else the New Afghan Refugees have arrived with -skills that can fill gaps in our labour market; professional experience that cannot be bought; talents, dreams, hopes and potential.

“When I think about the potential of this community, I too am filled with hope. These are incredible people who can be assets to this country.
And so it is our collective responsibility to provide the support and assistance that is needed to unlock this potential and allow these new brothers and sisters to live the successful, independent lives they wish for and deserve. That means the provision of appropriate, good quality housing, of accessible education and leisure opportunities and of suitable assistance to enter work.

“Glasgow Afghan United is proud to be working with the Scottish Government to support Afghan Resettlement. This is new work for us on top of our existing sports, education, women’s empowerment and cultural programmes. We have expanded our team and, for the first time, we are working not only in Glasgow but across Scotland.

“It is crucial work. As we know, the New Afghan Refugees in Scotland have been brought here because of their service to UK authorities in Afghanistan. It is that service that has put them at risk from the Taliban. Their lives have been uprooted not by choice, but by regime change – by the take-over of a regime that is unelected, unwanted and opposed.

“Anyone can be a refugee, but it is not something any of us chooses willingly. Refugees are welcome here – that is the message that has been sent by the Scottish Government, the Scottish Parliament and the Scottish people. And that message must be a message of purpose. We must act together to prove that it is true by extending friendship and solidarity, but also practical assistance with human rights at its heart.

“It is my solemn plea to all those in this parliament and government, to all those in local authorities, health boards, schools, colleges, and housing, to really make room for refugees – in policies and protocols; in workforces and communities.

“To the New Afghan Refugees in Scotland, I want you to know that Glasgow Afghan United is here for you now as you build your new lives and we will still be here for you when you feel settled in the future.

“We exist to serve this community and build strong links across Scottish society. We exist for you. And together with the MSPs, councillors and charities, we are building a stronger Scotland that we can all share in unity, equality, peace and diversity.

“Thank you again for joining us this evening. I am proud to stand amongst you.
Welcome, one and all.”

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