September 25 2015: Glasgow refugees invited to football match to help them integrate into Scottish life

The Evening Times, September 25 2015

Refugees were given free tickets to a football match to help them integrate into Scottish life.

Celtic donated 20 tickets to Glasgow’s Uniting Nations in Scotland (UNIS) group for the club’s match against Dundee last Sunday.

It is part of a move to help the refugees, who come from war-torn countries including Syria, adapt to life in Scotland.

Greg Higgins, an NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde nurse who volunteers for UNIS, approached the Celtic Foundation to see if they could do anything to help the group.
They quickly offered Greg the tickets – and a Celtic spokesman said they were more than happy to help anyone affected by the refugee crisis.

One of the UNIS group’s founders Ahlam Souidi, who is a former Evening Times Community Champion, said attending the match helped refugees to become “socially integrated”.

She said: “Greg has been helping our members understand how to access the NHS and with any health issues.

“But he also felt it was important for the members to become socially integrated into life here in Scotland so he organised for this trip.”

Ahlam said the members and their children enjoyed the game, which saw Celtic win 6-0.

She said: “A lot of Scottish fans came forward to the group, took photos with them, and said to our members: ‘You are very welcome here’.

“There was an elderly women who gave some money to the members’ children.

“You really feel the sympathy of the Scottish people towards refugees.”

Ahlam said she hoped other football clubs might make a similar gesture.

She added: “Celtic have been very supportive and have set a very good example.”

Greg said sport was a “universal language” for people across the world.

He said: “With a lack of finance or lack of knowledge, attending a football game is a difficult thing for asylum seekers or refugees to do so any introduction to sport is a really positive thing.

“Sunday was a really good experience for them. It was a great response.

“Even small experiences can go a long way for people.”

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