REMZIJE Sherifi was already on a plane heading to Prestwick Airport when she learned her family was coming to Glasgow.
Fighting cancer and with her husband and three sons in tow, she was urgently in need of medical treatment.
But more urgent than that, says Remzije, was the need for a life lived without constant fear for her children’s lives.
It was 1999 and Kosovan Remzije and her family were the first of thousands who would settle in the city in the following years as result of conflicts across the world.
The Kosovan refugees, followed by those fleeing the Bosnian War, were initially placed in two communities – Red Road and Sighthill –with Sighthill alone taking in more than 2000 displaced people.
“The city changed overnight,” remembers Remzije, now a coordinator with Maryhill Integration Network.
What followed was tension among some, as well as an increase in crime, and even the tragic death of one young Turkish man.
But now, with the acceptance that this policy – described as “ghettoisation” –failed and that not enough was done to educate local people, Glasgow is leading the way as part of a national taskforce to ensure the country is ready to offer refuge to those fleeing violence in Syria.
The UK Government has committed to taking 20,000 people from the refugee camps and 2000 are expected to come to Scotland – including Glasgow – under the Syrian Vulnerable Person’s Relocation Scheme before Christmas.
Humza Yousaf, the Scottish Government’s minister for International Development and MSP for Glasgow Pollok, said that “while it is imperative that lessons are learned” from the past, Glasgow is now a leading light for other Scottish local authorities preparing to settle Syrian refugees.
He added that a Scottish Government taskforce will ensure refugee families are spread out across local authority areas, and discussions will be held with neighbours, community councils and local businesses to combat integration issues.