She’s jumping, giggling, gleeful as only a two-year-old can be. 

“Abay, Abay,” she shouts for me, “Look at me! Jumping in muddy puddles! Abay, Abay! Come in.” 

And then there were two – a little human and a big human – jumping in muddy puddles in the East End of Glasgow. 

There are few such signs of hope and normality as playing children. 

“Abay” – that’s me. It means Granny in Tigrinya. But it also symbolises so much more. It is quintessentially a moment of perfect integration. 

My granddaughter was born in the UK, to my refugee foster daughter, and she is a UK citizen. 

Her jumping in muddy puddles would not have been possible without the work of the British Red Cross and others.  

So much attention is paid to the often short but agonising period in a refugee’s life when they have to flee. Many refugees’ experiences are seen as epic, constructed into stories which can be found to be palatable. The more dramatic the story, the reasoning goes, the more attention will be paid. 

The other stories, of what it is like to rebuild your life or be reunited with family, are less often told. The hard work, nappy changes, shopping. The many official forms to fill in that paint a picture of an asylum process set up to say “No”.

There is a refrain used by government and support organisations, that the UK has a “proud history” of welcoming refugees. That is disputable, not least when the figures for refugee settlement in the UK fall far short of countries – Pakistan, Uganda, Jordan to name a few - with nothing even approaching our wealth.

But what about the less sexy stories that come after the welcome? And what about the real work of integration such as the discovery that when there is black ice you need shoes with good grip?

These are not taken as headline stories but this is integration. These stories are part of my life, as I live the contours of refugee integration in the UK both personally and professionally. 

Integration is the responsibility of the Scottish Government and indeed Glasgow, as the number one city for dispersal of people seeking asylum in the UK, has learnt hard lessons.

Scotland was one of the first countries to develop an integration strategy, and it did so insisting on integration from day one, and on integration as a multilateral task.

It is not something that can be reduced to finding a house, learning a new language or acquiring a GP, though these are vital. Instead, it is the work of people. To emphasise this, the Scottish Government titled its 2018-22 refugee integration strategy and the committee which oversees this (of which I am Chair) New Scots. 

It reminds us that integration is a creative task of making room for others, of making room for those who did not share the songs of their childhood, or for those who sing songs about muddy puddles.

My refugee family is spread across Eritrea, Ethiopia, Sudan, Egypt, Libya, Italy, Germany, Sweden and Canada. We foster the relationships with our wider family, sharing the images of children slowly growing up, of new haircuts, of the weekend picnic. I know this is an experience that has become all too familiar to all families under lockdown. 

Families like ours have no hope of physically meeting beyond the long-term hopes of family reunion, laid out in the Refugee Convention and the operations of organisations like the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies. 

But when the Red Cross works miracles, the process of integration in our family begins with welcome. The children then drag us into their games – a pillow fight, dressing up in strange clothes, and making up songs and chants, full of laughter. 

Good integration is mutual, it’s relational, it happens with the support of state and NGO structures, but it’s also about making new families, new communities. 

In my experience, those who are best at this are refugees themselves. The more policy-makers empower refugee and asylum-led groups to enable such work, the more successful and frictionless the integrating can become. 

In Scotland, as opposed to other countries, people seeking asylum do not have to wait to integrate until years later for their refugee status. 

People must be part of society from the start so they can learn together, about each other and about differences. This mitigates the deep suspicion which can build up during a fraught and often awful experience of gaining asylum.

The success of this approach in Scotland is clear from public attitude surveys. Of course, it is still possible to find hostility, but it is more muted, and the direction has been towards tackling hostility and building up human rights education around asylum and refugee policy.

To see this policy extended to other parts of the UK would be a positive step. 

In the all too human processes of integration, repeated in every life of every refugee, these are the moments when we become whole, when the bureaucracy and the waiting and the agonised separations are replaced by the ordinary wonder of being alive and being with one another. 

When we miss this – in our policies, strategic plans and fundraising drives – and when we forget that it is for life, for the possibility of grandchildren with their grandparents, jumping in muddy puddles, then we miss why the Refugee Convention is a sacred bond in modernity, beyond the bonds of blood.

Alison Phipps is a Professor at the University of Glasgow and UNESCO Chair in Refugee Integration through Languages and the Arts