IT’S been two years since the harrowing image of Syrian three-year-old Alan Kurdi lying dead on a Turkish beach shocked the world.

And it’s horrifying that since then the UN estimate a further 8500 people have died while attempting to make the hazardous journey across the Mediterranean Sea.

While the UK Government was slow to respond, Scotland has been able to provide safety and sanctuary to around 1850 Syrian refugees, under the Syrian Resettlement Programme, since October 2015.

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READ MORE: In the two years since Alan Kurdi died, at least 8500 more refugees have perished

And we stand ready to help more people as and when required. Our New Scots refugee integration strategy provided a strong base for Scotland’s response to the humanitarian crisis.

And over the last two years we have worked closely with Cosla and local authorities, as well as the third sector and community organisations, to get the right support in place to help refugees settle into safe new homes and be able to begin to rebuild their lives in our communities.

It’s been fantastic to see people extend the hand of friendship to their new neighbours. However, adjusting to a new and very different country takes time, and we must recognise the difficulties people face and learn from them. People have had their lives turned upside down and often lost everything, through no fault of their own.

Some also face significant challenges from disability and ill health and, of course, a language barrier. We continue to work to overcome any barriers to education and opportunities to work, and will tackle health and housing inequalities.

One issue raised regularly by the refugees is family reunion. Many of them have had to leave members of their families in Syria or other neighbouring countries and are extremely anxious for their safety.

We have sought improvements to the family reunion process from the UK Government – for all refugees in Scotland, not just those who have arrived through the Syrian Programme, and we are working to simplify access to crisis funds for those who need initial support when they arrive through the family reunion programme.

We will always prioritise the rights of the child. Most children in Scotland will have the love and protection of a family. For lone and lonely child refugees with no family, no emotional or practical support, to have lost loved ones and homes is unimaginable and unacceptable.

Scotland has provided a place of safety for 35 children through the Dubs amendment but we are ready to offer refuge to more vulnerable, unaccompanied children who have found themselves displaced and separated from their families and homes.

I am therefore appalled the UK Government ended the Dubs amendment early and have written to the UK Government urging them to listen to the people of Scotland and around the world, who have stated time and again we must prioritise these children.

Scotland stands willing, ready and able to provide a safe haven for more children as and when the UK Government acts.

Angela Constance is Cabinet Secretary for Communities, Social Security and Equalities