Families from wartorn Syria have started their new life in Rothesay on Bute
– They have been struggling to learn English and feel isolated on the island
– Refugees praise people of Scotland for helping but are struggling to settle
– Abd, 42, said: “I am depressed now. I feel like I have one option now – to die here. Only die here, nothing else”
– Wife Rasha said island ‘full of old people’ and “where people come to die”
It was a scheme designed to offer Syrian refugees a new life in Scotland, away from the horrors of their war-ravaged homeland. But some of the first to be given sanctuary in Rothesay eight months ago have spoken of their unhappiness on Bute, saying it is “full of old people” and a place “where people come to die”.
Two of the Syrian families on the island also spoke of their shame at receiving charity, but were quick to praise the people of Scotland and also spoke of their love of the country’s blustery, unpredictable climate.
Struggling to learn English, the fathers of the families – who both used to run businesses – said that most days they stay indoors or take walks on the seafront, feeling isolated.
Names have been changed because of fears about family members still in Syria, but Abd, 42, who lives with his wife Rasha, 35, and their four children, said: ‘At first, of course, I was really happy to come to the UK. It is the mother of freedom.
The Government has given refugee families the chance to settle in the UK – but chose one of the country’s least diverse areas.
The Isle of Bute has a population of just 6,498, which swells in the Summer months due to tourism. Just 0.3 per cent of its population is from an ethnic minority and its average resident is aged between 55 and 59, according to official figures. That’s a serious shortage of young girls to ‘groom’ and gang-rape!
Bute is picturesque but has high unemployment and Rothesay is in the top 15 per cent of the most deprived areas in Scotland. Yet the Isle of Bute, on the Cowal peninsular, was chosen to welcome 15 Syrian families as part of the Tory government’s plan to take in 20,000 refugees by 2020.
Twelve Syrian families arrived in Rothesay in early December as SNP Scotland welcomed one-third of the 1,000 refugees David Cameron agreed to take from camps bordering Syria before the end of last year.
“People treated me really well, really nice. Scotland is beautiful.”
“I love the weather. There are some people who like this weather and I like it. I like the winter. But for six, seven months now there has been nowhere to go.”
“There is no movement, there is nothing. I’m not bored any more. I am depressed now. I feel like I have one option now – to die here. Only die here, nothing else.”
Abd, who had been making trips to Glasgow to find work, said: ‘I didn’t expect to come to this island. We thought we were going to London or Manchester.
But whenever we say anything about moving off the island, we are told “We had to pay a lot of money to bring you here”.
“I feel like it’s an obligatory residence. I feel humiliated. I didn’t come here for anyone to control me.”