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Social workers light a candle for refugees

More than 200 social workers from across Europe staged a candle-lit vigil in Edinburgh to show solidarity to refugees arriving on the continent.

Holding banners saying “Welcome refugees”, “Refugees are people” and “People first”, they gathered for a minute’s silence by the Woman and Child statue in Festival Square commemorating those killed or imprisoned in the fight against apartheid.

The show of support came from delegates representing some 40 nations attending the International Federation of Social Work’s European Conference in the city.

It was organised amid growing pressure on European governments to act in the face of the human tragedy of people fleeing conflict.

Bridget Robb, Chief Executive of the British Association of Social Workers (BASW), said: “We are here for the refugees who have died on their way to Europe. We are united with our colleagues working with people who have arrived in Europe, often against the wishes of local people and government.”

Ms Robb criticised the response of the Westminster Government to the refugee crisis. “We are very concerned that in the UK the Government has been so hostile to people coming here,” she said.

“We are grateful the Scottish Government has been more welcoming to people in very difficult circumstances.

“Let us light candles in remembrance of those who have died and colleagues working with people arriving in Europe.

“We will continue to put pressure on the Government to give services to all.”

Maris Stratulis, Manager of BASW England, described the way refugees were being treated as an “outrage”.

“It is degrading and inhumane and we have to do something about it. We have to be united and stand together.”

Carolyn Ewart, Manager of the Northern Ireland Association of Social Workers, added: “Refugees are people. We need to remember that first and foremost.

“This is a human tragedy and a human crisis.

“These are people in desperate need and we have the capacity to help them. The social work community needs to show its support.”