Refugee Integration, Refugee Resettlement

An Island Sanctuary

Anas, aged 17, wrote to us about his life on the Isle of Lewis.


From the time when I have been told I have to travel to Stornoway the first thing that came to my mind was “where is that?” Then they told me it is in Scotland, well, all I know about Scotland is it is a part the UK and it is so cold there. I didn’t even think that Stornoway is on an island in the middle of the Atlantic!

Lots of things started coming to me, bad ideas, how the people will be there, what the houses look like and even how the people look. For me it was an unknown place. I wasn’t worried about the language, I already have some English and it will improve by practising with the people. The most important thing I was thinking about is how people will deal with me with my family, especially the women in my family they wear the Hijab and it is something strange for the people where I am going to.

Unexpected things happened, it took with me a few days just to understand where I was. It was not easy to shift all those things I am used to, to different things. The people here are so nice I got a very warm welcome from the folks here, I didn’t expect that, people stop me in the street to say “you are very welcome in my country, do you need anything?” Amazing!

All the people here accepted us, they make our integration with them much easier!

Most of the people didn’t even ask why our ladies are wearing the hijab, all you can hear is “Full respect man”. What I’ve seen here is so different from I thought, in good way.

I’m more than a year on this island now and I still can see the kind of people I used to see when I came. Actually, it was easy to be one in this community, to be part of these people.

What I thought about people here is that everyone will just be looking after himself, nobody cares about the rest. I was completely wrong. Now I have to say sorry to them about how I was thinking about them before.

The thing that surprised me most is the charity shops, events and even the small shops has at least one box for charity.

Volunteers, people here deal with volunteering as part of their duties, for a while I thought they got paid for that, but all I know, it is a priority for them! I asked myself how they do this, the only answer I got is they feel for each other, they love to do things for others just for “thank you”.

In general I like it here, it is an island in the middle of the sea, but at least you can feel the life here. You can be like anyone here, what do you need more when an old man asks you “where are you from?” and after you answer he starts telling you “you are very welcome in my city, we are so sorry about what’s happening there, what can I do for you? Please ask for help when you need it” Unfortunately I didn’t realise that before.

The rule they follow is, “humanity first”.

(Photo credit: Gayle Findlay)

3 thoughts on “An Island Sanctuary”

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