Thousands of Ukrainians in Scotland living in ‘inappropriate housing’

Thousands of Ukrainians in Scotland living in 'inappropriate housing'

A year on from the launch of the Scottish Government’s Super Sponsorship Scheme, thousands of people displaced from Ukraine are still living in temporary accommodation in Scotland, according to a report from the British Red Cross.

The charity warns this accommodation, which includes passenger liners, is not appropriate for people who have been displaced from their homes.

This is highlighted in the report: Fearing, fleeing, facing the future: how people displaced by the conflict in Ukraine are finding safety in the UK, which reflects on the successes and challenges of the UK’s response to people fleeing the conflict in Ukraine, including by the Scottish Government.

The Super Sponsorship Scheme – allowing Ukrainians to select the Scottish Government as their sponsor, receive a visa and travel immediately to Scotland – resulted in unexpectedly high numbers of applications.

There’s much to be celebrated in the way the Scottish Government helped people arrive safely. However, the British Red Cross warns the scheme hasn’t had the infrastructure needed to meet demand and calls on the Scottish Government to rectify this for future schemes.

As of 7 February 2023, 23,282 arrivals had reached Scotland out of a total of 37,964 visas issued.

In July 2022, the Scottish government temporarily paused the scheme and later asked many of those yet to arrive on the Super Sponsorship Scheme to consider alternative options, due to a lack of accommodation.

At the end of 2022, there were more than 6,800 Ukrainians still living in temporary ‘welcome accommodation’ in Scotland. This included more than 4,400 people staying in hotel rooms and more than 2,400 were on two chartered passenger liners.

The ships are situated in isolated docks and the majority of rooms on one of them are windowless. People staying on board are not told how long they will be there for - creating further stress and uncertainty for people.

While there are plans to move people off one ship by the end of March, the contract for the second ship has been extended until the end of June.

As the largest provider of refugee services in the UK, the British Red Cross is calling on the Scottish Government to prioritise moving people displaced from Ukraine into suitable long-term accommodation that meets their needs as soon as possible.

The charity says the Scottish Government should work with COSLA to implement a rent deposit scheme to help Ukrainians meet the upfront costs of moving into private rental properties, by paying their deposits and acting as a guarantor.

The Scottish Government doesn’t currently monitor the number of people from Ukraine at risk of homelessness but it’s been reported at least 310 people are seeking homelessness support from local councils.

Cost-of-living pressures and barriers to securing private accommodation have played a major part in this, according to the British Red Cross.

The charity is urging the Scottish Government to monitor and publish the number of people at risk of homelessness, so that it can provide support to those who need it and prevent the numbers from growing.

It is also urging governments at every level to share learnings from their response to the conflict in Ukraine and work with the British Red Cross to improve the UK’s wider policies – from family reunions for refugees, to the process for seeking asylum. It is encouraging policy makers to consider how safe routes could be expanded to others seeking refuge.

Rob Murray, British Red Cross director for Scotland, said: “The Super Sponsorship Scheme should be celebrated for allowing thousands of people to escape the conflict in Ukraine. But one year on, too many Ukrainians are still living in limbo, unable to properly settle in Scotland because they’re staying on ships and in hotel rooms.

“We’re worried there’s a real risk of families becoming homeless or spending long periods of time in inappropriate accommodation. This is creating stress and uncertainty for people already dealing with the emotional impact of the conflict.

“The Scottish Government has provided a vital response for people fleeing the conflict in Ukraine. Now it must build on this by helping Ukrainians into safe, suitable and affordable accommodation in Scotland, where they can start to rebuild their lives.

“It’s important that all governments reflect on lessons from the past year to improve schemes for Ukrainians still settling in Scotland and ensure future safe routes meet people’s needs on arrival.”

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