From freelance journalist Alex Garrick-Wright:

As a prospective councillor, what are your feelings on the resettlement of Syrian refugees in Shetland?


What are your thoughts on the fact that Shetland has not yet hosted any families?


Would you support the new Council taking a more proactive approach?

My response:

As one of the serving councillors of the time I was in firm agreement with the joining of the Syrian Resettlement Programme and continue to hold that opinion.
With regard to your specific questions:
Shetland, though intermittently appearing to be insular, is a community that has been founded on the acceptance of immigrants over many centuries. Our culture, economy and population are a composite of the many nationalities that have arrived here at one time or another. In modern times there have been significant numbers of foreign nationals who have settled in Shetland and contributed to, and integrated with, the community in many ways.
Given that a mainstay of the Syrian economy is/was the oil industry, there is some likelihood that refugees resettling here may find gainful employment and some familiarity. While central Shetland may have a high demand for housing from locals, there is likely to be available housing in the more rural areas that may offer accommodation that would be welcomed by a refugee family.
As to why there are no families here as yet, I speculate that there are a number of reasons for this. Our geographic location and the cost of travelling to and from here may dissuade any informed Syrians from seeking to base a future here, especially if they intend to return to Syrian in the medium to long term. Another aspect is separation from fellow countrymen. Proportionately, Shetland would only be expected to take in one or two families and in this eventuality, they may feel significantly isolated from family, friends and a shared language and culture. It may be the case that the other UK island communities have actively promoted themselves as welcoming places to resettle, but I would guess that a look at the map has been a key factor.
I am open to the idea of the Council taking a more proactive approach, so long as it was done in a context that would best benefit the families that were encouraged to come here. While any refugees in need should be welcomed, there may be those from an oil industry or agricultural background that could find a new home and life here, rather that purely a house in an unfamiliar and very different location.

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