King Charles visits refugees rebuilding their lives in Aberdeen

British monarch met Ukrainian, Syrian and Afghan refugees who now call the Scottish city home

King Charles III meets refugee families to hear how the local council in Aberdeen has been supporting them. AFP
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Britain's King Charles III has welcomed refugees from Ukraine, Syria and Afghanistan and learnt about efforts to resettle displaced families in Scotland.

The monarch visited Aberdeen on Monday to hear first hand how the local council had been supporting people fleeing conflict in their homelands.

Aberdeen City Council has worked with the UK and Scottish governments to provide accommodation and critical services such as health and education for more than 1,000 people.

In a reception at the city’s Town House, the king met Inna Skvortsova, a Ukrainian woman who arrived in April.

She now has a full-time role at the council assisting with the resettlement programme.

Ms Skvortsova said it was “such an honour” to be invited to meet the king.

“Six months ago I didn’t expect that I would be here, or with the king, His Majesty, and now I am proud to represent my country," she said.

“I’m so grateful that the United Kingdom helped me and helped my compatriots.”

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The monarch also met Burhan Vesal, who worked as an interpreter with the British Army in the south of Afghanistan.

He also met Mr Vesal’s wife, Narcis, who plans to use her medical experience in obstetrics and gynaecology to work as a doctor in the UK, and their son Sapehr, 7, who is enjoying school in the city.

“It means a lot as a new immigrant. He spoke to us with openness and with laughter and joy," Mr Vesal said after meeting the king.

“We ran away from conflict, we ran away from violence, in a hard situation, and now besides having the support from the community here, we have the support from the king and the government.”

He added that the monarch was “touched” when Mr Vesal recounted his family’s life story.

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The king also shared advice on being a good grandparent as an Afghan refugee, who asked to be known only as Yar to protect his identity, told King Charles his family had expanded to 12 with a recent new addition.

Yar, who is still awaiting a permanent home in Aberdeen, had been employed as an interpreter with the armed forces and worked in Camp Bastion as an IT support worker before fleeing to Pakistan where he was evacuated to the UK.

“This was my first time to meet the king and this is my whole life. He is a very kind person," he said.

“I had a good chat with him, telling my family story to him and he was really, really good and said that ‘now you’re going to have a safe life here’.”

He said King Charles was “excited” to hear that he had just become a grandfather for the first time and wished him luck in dealing with a growing his growing family.

King Charles III visits Scotland — in pictures

Before his departure, a choir of schoolchildren, university students and some of the refugee families sang a song, The Northern Lights of Old Aberdeen, to the monarch.

During an official visit to Jordan in November 2021, the king visited Al Nuzha Community Centre which is supported by UN High Commission for Refugees and met refugee families receiving UK assistance.

Aberdeen has resettled about 1,000 Ukrainian refugees, with capacity for more.

Approximately 170 Afghan refugees are currently staying in two hotels in the city and about 30 Syrian families have also been resettled in the city since 2014.

Later on Monday, the king held an audience with the president of Gabon at Buckingham Palace, after the formal celebrations of the country’s entry into the Commonwealth.

King Charles welcomed President Ali Bongo Ondimba to the 1844 Room, greeting him warmly with a smile and a handshake.

Earlier in the day, the flag of Gabon was raised at the Commonwealth headquarters, Marlborough House, for the first time.

The special ceremony marked the West African country’s addition as a Commonwealth nation.

Gabon became the 55th member of the Commonwealth in June following approval at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Kigali, Rwanda.

At Marlborough House, the president — a one-time funk singer who stepped into his father’s shoes to continue his family’s now 55-year rule — described it as an important day for his country.

“In a world full of uncertainties, mostly created by humanity’s excesses and greed, we believe strongly that the Commonwealth family of nations is a unique and varied community of countries that share common values and whose diversity represents a formidable melting pot of ideas and solutions,” the president said.

Updated: October 17, 2022, 10:23 PM