Ensuring support can continue after large increase of new applications.
A three-month pause on new visa applications for displaced Ukrainians to come to Scotland will be in place from 9:00 am on Wednesday 13 July.
The pause on new applications will not affect anyone who has already made an application or had their visa granted.
With visa applications listing the Scottish Government as sponsor up 21% on the previous week as of 5 July, visas issued up 27%, and arrivals under the super sponsor scheme up 20%, a temporary suspension is needed to ensure safe accommodation can continue to be provided to those who have already applied and may now travel to Scotland.
A total of 21,256 visas have been issued naming a Scottish sponsor – more than 20% of the UK total, and the highest number per head of population in the UK. Scotland is currently providing sanctuary for over 7,000 people, two-thirds of whom applied under the Scottish super sponsor scheme.
This exceeds the 3,000 the Scottish Government committed to welcome when the scheme launched in March, to provide a rapid route to safety for those fleeing the crisis caused by Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine.
In addition to the pause, the following actions are being taken:
- the chartering of a passenger vessel the M/S Victoria, which will be docked in Leith in Edinburgh to provide an additional 739 rooms where people can be temporarily accommodated
- the refurbishment of 200 unused council properties in North Lanarkshire to provide more longer-term accommodation, supported by £5 million of Scottish Government funding
- additional staff will be deployed in ‘surge teams’ to assist local authorities matching those in temporary premises to suitable longer-term accommodation
- the Wheatley Housing Group, Scotland’s largest social landlord, has pledged to make 300 homes available to local authorities across Scotland to house displaced people from Ukraine
- Minister with Special Responsibility for Refugees from Ukraine, Neil Gray will also meet today with Lord Harrington, UK Minister for Refugees, to seek clarity on existing funding arrangements for the Ukraine Sponsorship Scheme and, given the very high demand experienced by the Welsh and Scottish Government schemes, ask whether the UK Government will consider introducing its own super sponsor arrangements
Mr Gray said:
“As a nation Scotland has risen in solidarity with Ukrainians in their hour of need. I am proud that thanks in large part to our super sponsor scheme, we are now providing safe accommodation to the most Ukrainians per head of population in the UK.
“We have been able to ensure thousands of people displaced by Russia’s horrific and illegal war were able to travel immediately and receive support and a place to stay without the need to be matched with a private host first.
“Our absolute priority has been to respond quickly to support those forced to flee their homeland and I thank all local authorities, third sector organisations, the private sector and the public, who have all mobilised in a major effort to help – together we have coordinated accommodation and delivered essential services at a large scale and in a very short space of time.
“With a recent decrease in people applying for private sponsorship in England, and Wales having paused their own scheme, the number of applications naming the Scottish Government as sponsor has increased considerably in recent weeks. For this reason we have taken the incredibly difficult decision to follow Wales in pausing our scheme so we can continue to provide a high level of support and care to everyone who has already been granted a visa.
“We will review our position in three months, but of course if circumstances change during that time we will bring that date forward. In the meantime we are taking significant action to increase the capacity of our temporary accommodation and are also boosting our matching system to maximise the number of displaced people placed with volunteer hosts who have completed the necessary safeguarding checks.”
This Scottish Government has already committed around £60 million to ensure people have appropriate temporary accommodation on arrival, with an additional £11.2 million made available to help local authorities increase their teams to support people with temporary resettlement into communities across Scotland, and invest in making improvements to housing stock so that there are more homes available for Ukrainians to move into.
A further £1.3 million has been provided to the Scottish Refugee Council to increase its capacity and extend invaluable help and support to arriving Ukrainians, many of whom will have experienced significant trauma.
On arrival in Scotland displaced Ukrainians are given safe, temporary accommodation in Welcome Hubs across the country, where meals, trauma support and medical attention are provided as necessary. A matching process is then undertaken to provide suitable accommodation either in social rent properties or with private hosts where safeguarding and property suitability checks have been carried out in advance.
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