To: Minister for Legal Migration Tom Pursglove.
From: Co-chairs of the Ukraine Stakeholder Reference Group: Migration Minister Emma Roddick, COSLA Community & Wellbeing Spokesperson Councillor Maureen Chalmers and Scottish Refugee Council CEO Sabir Zazai
We are writing to you in our capacities as co-chairs of the Ukraine Stakeholder Reference Group and co-partners of A Warm Scots Future to express our disappointment that the Home Office did not attend our most recent meeting focusing on the Ukraine Schemes visas and to ask for urgent clarity on options available to displaced people after three years, including any possible extensions and routes to more permanent residence.
The Stakeholder Reference Group is co-chaired by the Scottish Government, COSLA and the Scottish Refugee Council and was established to provide a strong voice for people displaced from Ukraine in Scotland. Its quarterly meetings focus on the issues most important to them and provide policy-makers with valuable insight into the lived experience of Ukrainians displaced by Russia’s illegal war. We have enjoyed constructive engagement with UK Government to date, for example with a representative of the Department of Work and Pensions attending our meeting focusing on employability.
It is therefore regrettable that the Home Office indicated to our secretariat that a representative was likely to attend our 21 November meeting on visas, but then did not attend or offer apologies in advance. Nevertheless, we want to take this opportunity to update you on some of the experiences and concerns shared at the meeting as we feel this will be of benefit as you consider the next steps for the Ukraine Schemes.
The group heard an insightful presentation from the Ukrainian Collective, an organisation made up of displaced Ukrainians from across Scotland. It highlights the wide-ranging but interlinked negative impacts that continued uncertainty about visas and future immigration status is having - from difficulties in securing long-term employment and accessing the private rental sector, to decisions on whether to take up further and higher education courses or seek recognition of qualifications. We have shared the full evidence presented to the group with you as we feel it is crucial in demonstrating the importance of providing urgent clarity on the options and support available to people displaced from Ukraine after the three-year period of Homes for Ukraine visas ends.
Pursuing this clarity is one of the priorities set out in A Warm Scots Future, a strategic policy paper published in September by the Scottish Government in partnership with COSLA and the Scottish Refugee Council. We urge you once again to provide this clarity as soon as possible so that displaced people from Ukraine in Scotland, and right across the UK, can make decisions about their lives and futures. We also ask that Scottish Government Ministers and officials are included in discussions on the options being considered. It would be helpful in the meantime to understand your timeline for agreeing a plan and when you expect to communicate this publicly.
The Ukraine Stakeholder Reference Group will continue to listen and understand the concerns of displaced Ukrainians in Scotland in the new year and we hope that representatives of the Home Office and DHLUC may be able to attend some of these sessions in order to hear first-hand about their experiences. The group’s secretariat will keep your officials informed of upcoming meetings.
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