It’s been another busy year at Scottish Refugee Council. Let’s take a look back at some of the key moments from 2023.

January

Students at the University of Glasgow rediscovered a long forgotten play about a Ukrainian refugee rebuilding her life in New York. They held a dramatic reading of Tomorrow’s Child to raise funds for our work. It was the first time the play had been performed in front of an audience in over 100 years.

We launched a set of photography guidelines for organisations working with refugees. The best practice guide was written in collaboration with Becky Duncan at Open Aye and people with lived experience of the refugee and asylum system. You can view the guide here.

Our CEO, Sabir Zazai, collected an OBE at a special ceremony at the Palace of Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh. He was honoured in recognition of his work advocating for the rights of people seeking safety.

February

In February 2022, Russia launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine. One year on, we caught up with some of the volunteers welcoming people fleeing the war as they arrived at Glasgow airport.

We looked back at our response to this humanitarian emergency by sharing stories of strength, resilience and welcome and spoke to people who have been displaced, including Svitlana.

On Valentine’s Day, people from across Scotland showed their love and support for people seeking safety by sharing an orange Together With Refugees heart.

March

We protested against the Illegal Migration BillWe joined hundreds of organisations from across the UK speaking out in horror at the UK government’s cruel Illegal Migration Bill, which amounts to a refugee ban.

Our CEO, Sabir Zazai spoke to The Guardian about how the proposed legislation would have denied sanctuary to thousands of refugees, like himself and Olympic gold medallist Mo Farah.

In more positive news, our refugee-led Reaching New Scots fund awarded more than £800,000 to 35 community projects across Scotland. The fund was co-designed and managed by 11 people from refugee backgrounds in partnership with the National Lottery Community Fund.

April

We secured funding from the Scottish Government to deliver Guardianship Scotland in partnership with Aberlour Children’s Charity.

The national child trafficking support service provides unaccompanied asylum-seeking and trafficked children with an independent guardian to support them and speak up on their behalf.

Guardianship Scotland replaces the Scottish Guardianship Service, which was established by Scottish Refugee Council and Aberlour in 2010.

May

We worked with people graduating from our New Scots Leadership Programme, run in Partnership with Social enterprise Academy, to create a video celebrating their achievements.

Words matter! We wrote to the then Home Secretary, Suella Braverman calling for an end to the use of inflammatory language by elected politicians.

The move came after research showed a clear and alarming link between the UK government’s anti-migrant rhetoric and far-right activity.

The UK government could learn a thing or two from children at Taobh Na Pairce Primary School in Edinburgh. After learning about refugees, Class 4 held a pyjama day in aid of Scottish Refugee Council. They raised more than £1,000 to help people seeking safety in Scotland. Incredible work!

We’d like to say a huge thank you to the team at software company, Amiqus too. They took on the Edinburgh Marathon in May, raising over £19,000 in support of our work.

June

Refugee Festival Scotland brought hope and joy to communities across the country with more than 130 events celebrating art, culture and diversity.

We honoured excellent journalism at the Refugee Festival Scotland Media Awards. The annual awards ceremony recognises and rewards the importance of responsible reporting on refugee issues.

On World Refugee Day, we gathered at Civic House in Glasgow in solidarity with the 110 million people around the world who have been forced from their homes by conflict and persecution.

We commissioned Somali photographer, Najma Abukar to create an exhibition for the festival. Everyday Hope knits together portraits and conversations with eight people who have lived experience of forced displacement.

We also launched HOPE, a new podcast created by a group of radio presenters, podcast hosts, film producers and creatives with lived experience of seeking refuge.

July

July was a busy month. In response to the devastating news that the Illegal Migration Act was set to become law, we renewed our commitment to stand alongside people seeking asylum in the UK. And our CEO, Sabir Zazai, spoke out against plans to send people seeking safety to Rwanda in Hyphen magazine.

The Press and Journal published an article highlighting the positive contribution refugees are making to communities in Aberdeen and the Highlands.

Wafa was awarded an honorary degreeOur head of asylum, integration and resettlement, Wafa Shaheen was awarded an honorary degree by Queen Margaret University.

Wafa, who was presented with her award by Great British Bake Off’s Prue Leith, said:

“I am so happy and tremendously delighted. This honour is a recognition of the collective achievements of my colleagues at Scottish Refugee Council who have been working tirelessly in a very challenging political narrative to support people seeking protection in Scotland.”

Indie rockers The Snuts invited us to hold a collection at their SWG3 gigs on 28 and 29 July. We had a fantastic response, raising an impressive £1,768 to support people seeking safety in Scotland!

August

Two years on from the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan, our CEO, Sabir Zazai, reflected on lost opportunities,  broken promises and the urgent need for safe roots to refugee protection.

We also caught up with our colleague, Farzana. Before the Taliban takeover, she worked with vulnerable women and children in Afghanistan. Now she’s using her lived experience to help people settle in Scotland.

September

Glasgow St Pauli organised a Love Glasgow Hate Racism gig at the iconic Barrowland Ballroom, raising an incredible £15,418.23 for our work! Huge thanks to the four fantastic acts that took to the stage: Musicians in Exile, Joe Solo, She Drew the Gun and The Wakes.

We welcomed ten new artists to our Cross Borders mentoring programmeWe welcomed ten brilliant new artists and activists from refugee and other migrants backgrounds to our Cross Borders Mentoring programme. Each was paired with a mentor who will help them gain new perspectives and develop new connections. They will also receive a grant of £1,200 to support their professional and creative development. We caught up with two of the new mentees, photo journalist Elhan and author Anna.

And we received the Investing in Volunteers Award in recognition of our ongoing commitment to our amazing volunteers, who contribute to all aspects of our work.

October

To mark the launch of the third year of our New Scots Leadership programme, in partnership with Social Enterprise Academy, we caught up with Mohammed, one of last year’s graduates

Our star-studded No Borders Comedy Night at Glee Club, with Frankie Boyle, Josie Long, Jin Hao Li, Mark Nelson, Susie McCabe and Stephen Buchanan, raised a whopping £8,812.94!

And we gave a statement in response to the heart breaking humanitarian crisis in Gaza.

November

Aref Ghorbani performs live at his EP launchTwo musicians supported by our Cross Borders arts programme, Aref Ghorbani and EYVE, launched new EPs with live performances at venues in Glasgow.

Aref said “As an Iranian refugee musician, I have endured the stifling grip of censorship, restricting the expression of my art. Now, in Scotland, supported by the Scottish Refugee Council, I stand on the precipice of a new chapter – one where the shackles of fear are finally broken.”

We held workshops with community groups across Scotland to help inform the next stage of the New Scots Integration Strategy. The new Strategy, which will be developed and delivered in partnership with the Scottish Government and COSLA, sets out Scotland’s commitment to help people build meaningful and sustainable lives.

Suella Braverman was sacked as Home Secretary. Days later, there was more good news when plans to send asylum seekers to Rwanda were ruled unlawful by the Supreme Court. We urged the UK government to immediately scrap any further proposals to process people’s asylum claims offshore and start to repair the damage done to our asylum system instead.

December

As Scotland’s housing crisis worsens, more and more people seeking safety are at risk of homelessness this winter. We launched Fair Begins Here, a new campaign calling for a better plan for refugeesWe’re working flat out to ensure nobody is left out in the cold. We have called on the Scottish Government to allocate emergency funds to tackle this crisis in the Scottish budget on 19 December.

We launched a Winter Appeal to help refugees in urgent need and opened a new shop, stocked with a range of gift cards, t-shits and tote bags. We love the limited edition t-shirts, featuring Dougie the Scottie dog, designed for us by Dawn Richardson and Yamamah Naram.

We were chosen as one of the charities to benefit from The Guardian and Observer Charity Appeal, alongside the Refugee Councils of England and Wales. Donations from Guardian readers will go towards vital advice and support to help refugees rebuild their lives in Scotland.

We also joined hundreds of charities, faith groups and famous faces to launch Fair Begins Here, a new campaign from the Together With Refugees coalition calling for a better plan for refugees.

Find out more about the difference our work is making

Rachel Lamb
Author: Rachel Lamb