Supporting Refugees in Edinburgh

Supporting Refugees in Edinburgh—an initiative of Jews in Edinburgh

A group of Jews from both religious Jewish communities in Edinburgh and unaffiliated Jews has come together to initiate activities to support refugees arriving in Edinburgh. We are particularly interested in private sponsorship for refugees, a Canadian scheme which is currently ‘under construction’ in the UK. You can read all about it here: (summary version here) (pdf, opens in new window)

With the agreement of the governing bodies of Sukkat Shalom and the Edinburgh Hebrew Congregation we have signed up to become a sponsor. To signal that it is a community-wide initiative, we are registered as ‘Edinburgh Jews’. Sukkat Shalom is kindly providing web-space for information and is collecting pledges. The goal is to reach £20,000 in pledges to be able to support a family of refugees for a year, as soon as the scheme is activated.

If you would like to make a pledge or to donate now, 
please email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Other organisations in Edinburgh are The Welcoming Association, which seeks to provide a meeting ground for refugees and the local community and to offer English language classes and other projects, but is first and foremost centring on the need for befriending.

A list of other charities is here.

The Church of Scotland is drawing together a group of different faith organisations in the city and we will link to this as soon as possible.

What can we do to help until the private sponsorship scheme is active?

While we are preparing to support a family under this scheme and for the scheme to become a reality, there are a number of other initiatives in the city that we can link up with. Some can make use of our community’s skills through volunteering, others may be about short term help, either practical or financial. The initial route for all refugees arriving in Edinburgh is via local government. This is where the Immigration & Asylum Support Team makes an initial assessment of needs.

The City Council’s Immigration & Asylum Support Team has a number of examples of small, but effective, steps to integration and practical help. The following are opportunities to help right now. These have been identified by the City Council in relation to refugees arriving in Edinburgh:

  • Make welcome cards (perhaps an initiative for cheder children): At the moment we would be happy to receive any welcome cards for the particular following age groups: Couples, Boy aged 5, Boy aged 3, Girl aged 10, Boy aged 11, Boy aged 2, Girl aged 18 months, Girl aged 4, Boy aged 9;
  • Invites to local community events have been positively received by refugees. Also invites to share a meal together may be popular;
  • We are also working with some artists and writers from Syria who may be interested in making links with other artists. Perhaps we could help facilitate this?
  • Sponsor a child’s footwear needs for a year: we have in mind a family who have one child aged 5, who have just arrived in Edinburgh last month.

If you would like to take up one or more of these opportunities,
please email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Who are the refugees in Edinburgh?

There are two ways for refugees to arrive in the UK:

  1. Asylum seekers, i.e. people who come to the UK and claim asylum on arrival; following a successful asylum claim, these people gain refugee status.
  2. People who are under the protection of the UNHCR and thereby have gained refugee status before arrival in the UK.

Following the 1999 Immigration and Asylum Act asylum seekers are dispersed across the UK, so that all communities are tasked with integrating, rather than asking the south east of England to take the majority of new arrivals. In Scotland Glasgow made a deal with the UK government to take asylum seekers under the dispersal scheme; therefore, the majority of arrivals in Scotland are in Glasgow.

Edinburgh did not make such a deal. Therefore, until the arrival of Syrian refugees (people in category 2) the majority of asylum seekers in Edinburgh were those joining family members already resident here. Since September 2015 Syrian refugees are arriving in Edinburgh.

Edinburgh cares for a small number of refugees. In category 1 there are only a handful of people. In category 2 (mainly Syrians) there are about 14 families. The local government provides help under the Scottish integration scheme ‘New Scots’. This entails assistance with housing, English classes, medical and educational needs, accessing a National Insurance Number etc.

The ‘New Scots’ integration programme (pdf, opens in new window) works with several indicators of integration, that is things that suggest that someone new to the country has ‘arrived’ and feels ‘at home’ here. The process of integration asks the refugee to learn about our society and at the same time asks our society to befriend and make room for the refugee. Integration is all about forming relationships and networks in all areas of life (employment, housing, education, health, learning English and local culture, feeling safe and having stable relationships …)