Glasgow is pulling out all the stops

21st May 1999 at 01:00
A fortnight ago, 200 Kosovan refugees arrived in Glasgow with sad tales of how they left their homeland. Gillian Macdonald visited the family of one young girl who started at Dowanhill primary last week

The family left the camp because the doctors were concerned about Milot's asthma. Every day the little boy, who was now racing gleefully around their new three-bedroomed flat in Glasgow's Red Road on a plastic tricycle, had to see the doctors, who said he must leave because conditions were too bad.

The family was asked to write down the names of three countries they would like to go to. They chose the United States, France and Britain. The next morning they were told they were leaving. Hours later their plane arrived in Scotland and they were taken with 200 other refugees to new homes in the Balornock and Sighthill areas of Glasgow.

However bad the reputation of the 30-storey Red Road flats in Glasgow, and whatever stories may have been whipped up in the press about residents complaining that the Kosovan refugees are getting preferential treatment, the atmosphere this week was one of good Glasgow humour and warmth.

Social workers and home helps bustled in and out. "There but for the grace of God," said one jovial lady who accompanied a straggling group of Kosovan men and women up the road to the nearest supermarket. Two hours later, the Kosovans returned, pushing Safeway trolleys laden with basic supplies. For the first week, meals were brought in. Now they have to fend for themselves on the benefit they get from the social services.

Two or three Scottish teenagers ran in and out, emptying a car of bin bag after bin bag. One was labelled "shoes", another "clothing", others "male", "female". These were from Balfron High School, they said. Over the next few days, they would be sorted and redistributed to the families.

I also saw residents going down in the lift, smiling at the Kosovans. These refugees are clearly welcome, and Glasgow is pulling out all the stops to help.

There was only one moment of panic for Sala, when she saw two policemen at the entrance to the flats, making sure order was maintained on the first few days as 76 Kosovan refugees moved in. "Why you lied to us? You told us there were no police here."

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