Thank you for a wonderful festival. We’ll be back next summer for more.

Thank you to everyone for a wonderful Refugee Festival Scotland 2018.

A special huge thanks goes to all the performers, organisers, artists, hosts, participants, volunteers, young people, old people, families, kids, New Scots, old Scots, international guests and visitors… Everyone who came along and took part played a role in strengthening our communities and creating a culture of friendship and welcome towards newcomers in Scotland.

We hope you enjoyed it as much as we did. We hope our festival opened a door for people to make new connections and find out something new about the many cultures we are privileged to live alongside.

We’re taking a break now but will be busy planning next year’s festival soon. You can sign up to our newsletter to keep up to date with our plans here:

Or follow our year-round work with the refugee community in Scotland here:

Thanks and see you next year,

The festival team

Honouring World Refugee Day 2018

Scottish Refugee Council CEO, Sabir Zazai, reflects on World Refugee Day 2018 

“Today is an important day for me personally and for all of us at Scottish Refugee Council as we raise awareness around the plight of refugees and their courage and aspirations for a better life for themselves and their children. It is an important day on which I acquired this name tag ‘refugee’ and all the stigmas and joy attached with it.

As a former refugee this day reminds me of the terrible conflict I had to flee, the pain of separation, the perilous journey, the complex asylum system and the journey from a stranger into a citizen.

But today also reminds me of the people who arrived at the same time, their resilience and audacity that helped transform communities at many levels. I am thinking of hardworking brave people, who despite many challenges strived to make the utmost contribution to their adopted homes. Today, when I look into the social media networks through which I keep in touch with many friends with whom I share the journey of asylum, I see businessmen and women, activists, community workers, shopkeepers, teacher assistants, nurses, bus and taxi drivers, all doing their share to enrich us socially, economically and culturally. Over the years I have observed many new flavours and colours that add richness to our vibrant and diverse communities.

I also think back to some amazing people who offered us a warm welcome and gave us a reason to hope. The local communities, organisations and individuals who said: ‘You might have lost everything and have gone through terrible experiences but you are welcome here.’Those smiling faces who listened and cared for us as we were trying to find our way through the asylum system.

Almost twenty years after my arrival, it is sad to see that despite the consistent positive response of communities not much has changed at policy level for those who need our sanctuary and protection. There are many injustices and threats to our commitment to refugee protection, mainly resulting from the UK Government ‘hostile environment’ policy and the uncertainty around Brexit. Whilst the world is in the grip of one of the biggest refugee displacements, some of the richest nations invest in building borders leading to no safe and legal routes for people to get to safety. Sadly, we shut doors and treat people who have every right to seek protection like criminals. We continue to detain people and deny many their rights that force families and individuals into poverty and destitution. We spend more on enforcement than integration of refugees and their skills.

Refugees bring unique gifts and much potential but unfortunately the UK misses out on this as we don’t allow people the right to work while seeking asylum. With investment in integration and allowing people the chance to play an active role through employment or volunteering we can transform lives often shattered by war and conflict.

History proves that the UK has benefited a lot from people arriving at these islands over generations. At its best we are a welcoming society and one that is proud of its diversity but it is important not to be distracted from some of the obvious threats to our values and commitment to people who are in need of protection. There is a need for a human rights based approach to protecting refugees, so today is an important opportunity to join the voices around the world and send a strong message that refugee rights are our rights. We want people to be moved from war into prosperity, not poverty or detention.

So, whatever you do today to celebrate the World Refugee Day make sure you raise awareness through sharing some of the powerful stories and local communities who have continued to offer a warm welcome to their new neighbours, friends and colleagues.

This World Refugee Day I reach to you to connect with one another, build bridges across differences. If you’re a refugee simply say hello to your neighbours and tell them about your story and those of others. If you are a member of the local community that has resettled refugees, tell them that they are welcome, just like those kind-hearted people who welcomed me  all those years ago. It’s never a better time to share what we have with those who have lost everything due to no mistake of their own.

Refugee Festival Scotland Media Awards 2018 winners announced

The winners of this year’s Refugee Festival Scotland Media Awards have been announced at a ceremony in Glasgow.

The awards celebrate the work of journalists in Scotland who have covered refugee and asylum issues fairly, accurately and with care and insight over the last twelve months.

This year we received more entries than ever before, with an extremely strong shortlist including news, features, broadcast and student journalism. Full list of winners and runners-up is included below.

Scottish Refugee Council’s media manager Pauline Diamond Salim said: “The Refugee Festival media awards are a way to honour and celebrate the  quality human rights reporting being done in Scotland. We know we are lucky at Scottish Refugee Council to work with so many talented and committed journalists. It’s a real privilege for us to work with people throughout the year on stories that need to be told.”

The awards were hosted by Scottish Refugee Council in partnership with the British Red Cross and the National Union of Journalists Scotland and were held at the Corinthian Club after being relocated following the fire at Glasgow School of Art.

2018 media awards winners

News category

Winner:  Karin Goodwin, Sunday Herald

Runner-up: Kirsteen Paterson, The National

Features category

Winner: Liam Kirkaldy, Holyrood Magazine

Runner-up: Stephen Stewart, Daily Record

Local press category

Winner: Daniel Lawson, BBC Radio Shetland

Runner-up: Christina O’Neill, Glasgow Live

Online / multimedia category

Winner: Karin Goodwin & Angela Catlin, The Ferret

Runner-up: Stefan Bienkowski, The TwoPointOne

Broadcast and film category

Winner: Firecrest Films

Runner-up: Chris Harvey, STV

Student journalist

Winner: Naina Bhardwaj, Blasting News

Veteran firefighter joins Scottish Refugee Council in ambassador role

Our ambassador Jim Snedden has spent twenty years working for the Scottish Fire & Rescue Service. He now  runs the fire station at Dunblane and trains other firefighters as a swift water rescue instructor.

Over the summer of 2015, Jim, like many people, was shocked by the images of people drowning in the Mediterranean Sea . Over his twenty year career with the Scottish Fire Service, particularly in his role as a swift water rescuer, he knew about the dangers at sea.

The charity MOAS was coordinating rescue missions in the Mediterranean with international crews when they reached out to Jim and asked if he’d be interested in supporting their rescues.

“The first time I went out was a massive shock to the system. I flew to Malta and within four hours of landing I was on a ship heading towards Libya searching for people in distress. The first boat we rescued was a rubber dinghy about twelve miles off the coast of Libya. I couldn’t believe how many people were crammed onto it. More than 120 people.

“My role was to calm everyone down. There’s a lot of panic you know? The boat is sinking. People are terrified. Any sudden movements and it could go down. When people pay for these journeys they are promised it will be in a suitable, sea worthy boat. But they are put onto the boats at gunpoint on the beaches of Libya. I’ve seen boats with punctures in them. People would rather die at sea than die in Libya, that’s how desperate it is.

“Another mission I took part in started at 4am and lasted well into the next night. We rescued about 2000 people that day. 480 people were all crammed into the one boat.”

Jim shows me a stack of photographs from his first rescue mission with MOAS. The colours are very bright; neon orange life vests, a cloudless blue sky. He shows me familiarly shocking images of rubber dinghies packed with 120 people, legs hanging over the sides. But these pictures are shot in close-up and I can see the fear and panic in people’s eyes. The sun beats down on the little boat and it’s clear everyone is baking in the heat and fear. “It looks like a boat full of men,” says Jim. “Most of the pictures of these boats look like that. But what you don’t see is the children and women in the inside of the boat. They go in the centre and the men go around the outsides.”

We look through more pictures this time of Jim lifting young children and babies from the boats to safety. “This is my favourite picture,” he shows me a shot of a young girl clutching on to him. “She wouldn’t let go of me. People are desperate for you to do something, they grab you and cling to you, you are their last hope.”

Nothing in Jim’s life or career had prepared him for this. The scale, the amount of people, the desperation, how it could all have been avoided, the fear, the image of someone of a beach with a gun forcing people onto a leaking boat. The idea that people are making money out of this.

What impact has this had on him?

“It’s changed my outlook. Now I know a bad day for me here is a good day really in the bigger scheme of things. I know my wife, my three kids are all safe and ok.

“I’ve also learned about why people seek refugee protection, how the people I spoke to didn’t want to leave home but were absolutely forced into it.

“I’ve joined Scottish Refugee Council because Iwant to find out about the next stage in people lives and help how I can. I’ve realised that the journeys at sea are just one stage of people’s journeys. I thought naively that getting people to dry land safely was the end of the story, that things would work out OK for the people I rescued. Now I know that’s just one part of the story and a whole other journey begins for folk once they are here in a foreign country with all the trauma of what they experienced en route and that they fled in the first place.

“There is a lot of good work going on in Scotland in terms of welcoming people but we need to do everything we can to help people integrate and really feel like they belong here and help them reach full potential here. Everyone deserves safety and everyone deserves a chance.”

Refugee Festival Scotland Media Awards 2018 shortlist announced

Refugee Festival Media Awards shortlist announced

Scottish Refugee Council is pleased to announce the shortlist for the Refugee Festival Scotland Media Awards, run in partnership with British Red Cross and the National Union of Journalists.

The awards celebrate the exemplary work of journalists covering refugee and asylum related stories in an accurate, fair and engaging way.

The finalists come from across Scotland’s media – from national newspapers and political magazines to broadcasters and digital platforms.

Shortlisted entries 2018


Stephen Stewart, Daily Record, Supergran

Karin Goodwin, Sunday Herald, Refugees claim they are intimidated from their homes after Home Office rejects right to stay in Scotland

Kirsteen Paterson, The National, Family reunited in Scotland after judge lifts bar on sisters coming to UK

Marc Horne, The Times, Glasgow City Council ‘frozen out’ of asylum care contract



Alison Phipps, The National, A tale of humanity, love and reaching out to refugees

Daniel Harkins, Scottish Catholic Observer, A people in God’s hands

Stephen Stewart, Daily Record, Angel of the Med

Liam Kirkaldy, Holyrood Magazine, No recourse to public funds: how the UK’s hostile environment policy is driving people into destitution



Daniel Lawson, BBC Radio Shetland, From Syria to Shetland, will the Islands welcome refugees?

Christina O’Neill, Glasgow Live, More than just a charity shop – the lifeline for refugees in Glasgow



Anne Smith, STV, Dured

Chris Harvey, STV, Rohingya Crisis

Firecrest Films, Breadline Kids

Halla Mohieddeeen, STV, Syrian Civil War Anniversary



Stefan Bienkowski, TheTwoPointOne, A United Glasgow: the club that welcomes refugees to Scotland

Gethin Chamberlain, The Guardian, The deadly African gold rush fuelled by people smugglers’ promises

Karin Goodwin, The Ferret, The Children left destitute on Scotland’s streets

Victoria Pease, STV, How donated bicycles are helping refugees settle in Scotland



Student award to be announced on the night

Winners will be announced at the awards ceremony on Tuesday 19 June at Glasgow School of Art.

For more information contact