Ukraine Resettlement: Stakeholder Reference Group minutes - November 2023

Minutes from the meeting of the group on 21 November 2023.

Attendees and apologies

  • Emma Roddick MSP, Minister for Equalities, Migration and Refugees (co-Chair)
  • Councillor Maureen Chalmers, COSLA Spokesperson for Community Wellbeing (co-Chair) 
  • Andrii Nadych, Community Development Officer, SRC
  • Wafa Shaheen, Head of Asylum, Integration and Resettlement, SRC
  • David Beauchamp, Policy Officer (Ukraine), Migration, Population and Diversity Team, COSLA
  • Anna Kulish, Chair of Housing Group, Ukrainian Collective
  • Oleksandra Novatska, Chair of Language and Culture Group, Ukrainian Collective
  • Oleksandr Chernykh, Chair of Employment Group, Ukrainian Collective
  • John Hawryluk, Ukraine Project Coordinator, Edinburgh Voluntary Organisations’ Council (EVOC)
  • Karen Campbell, Children Services Manager, Bernardo's Scotland 
  • Fiona Bennett, Assistant Director, Children’s Services, Barnardo’s Scotland
  • Kirsty-Louise Hunt, Senior Policy and Public Affairs Lead, Barnardo’s Scotland
  • Catriona MacSween, Head of Guardianship Scotland, Aberlour (Ukraine Children and Host Family Service) - on behalf of Hannah Shepheard
  • Olha Maksymiak Communicatio,ns Officer, Association of Ukrainians in Great Britain, AUGB Glasgow
  • Hannah Beaton-Hawryluk, Branch Chair, AUGB Edinburgh
  • Tanya Balanova, Community Coordinator, AUGB Edinburgh
  • Maria Jemicz, Acting Chair, AUGB Dundee 
  • Paul Wilson, Volunteer Edinburgh
  • Tamara Al-Om , Devolved Practice Development Officer, Ukraine Response Team, British Red Cross
  • Catherine Brown, Head of Strategic Policy and Engagement, Scottish Government (SG)


  • Rob Murray, Director for Scotland, Health and Local Crisis Response, British Red Cross
  • Elodie Mignard, Senior Partnership Manager, SRC
  • Simon Tyas, Chair of Management Team, ScotHosts
  • Masha Allan, Management Team, ScotHosts
  • Anna Kitzberg, Communications Officer, Help Ukraine Scotland


  • Nadia Abu-Hussain, Ukraine Strategic Policy Team Leader, Strategic Policy and Engagement
  • Oleksandr Chernykh, Chair of Employment Group, Ukrainian Collective


  • Jennifer Blair, Barrister, Ukraine Advice Scotland Project
  • Olivia Pires, Migration Strategy Team Leader, SG
  • Mandy Watts, Team Leader, Ukraine Integration, SG
  • Benedict Goonesena, Ukraine Strategic Policy Manager, SG
  • Dominique Taylor, Ukraine Strategic Policy Manager, SG
  • Ellie Munro (Private Office), SG
  • Sam Matheson (Private Office), SG
  • Jodie Brechin, Policy Assistant, COSLA
  • Rowan Simpson, Policy Assistant, COSLA


  • Claire McKenna, Strategic Policy Manager, SG
  • Jane Macfarlane, Strategic Policy Officer, SG

Items and actions


The Minister as Chair welcomed everyone to the fourth meeting of the Stakeholder Reference Group and thanked them for their attendance and for getting together again so soon after the October meeting. The group was asked to note:

  • Bohdan Kruk, Chair of AUGB Dundee Branch has stepped down and welcomed the acting Chair, Dr Maria Jemicz
  • apologies were received from Elodie Mignard (SRC) and Rob Murray (British Red Cross)
  • a quick reminder about raising individual issues through the correct channels and if unsure, to contact the Secretariat for further advice

Actions from previous meeting

The Secretariat advised all actions from the previous meeting are complete. No issued were raised.

Scottish Government policy update

The Minister invited Nadia Abu-hussain (NAH), Team Leader, Strategic Ukraine Policy, SG, to provide a short update on the Scottish Government’s (SG) policy position on visas in line with the Warm Scots Future position paper published on 27 September. 

NAH explained that her team is responsible for the Scottish Government’s approach to visas for displaced people from Ukraine and then gave a very brief overview of the SG’s current position which was contained in the paper shared with members ahead of the meeting.

Key points:

  • visas and immigration are reserved policy matters to the UK Government (UKG), however the SG is very clear that displaced people from Ukraine should be able to remain and be supported in Scotland for as long as they need to be. The SG can represent a really strong position and make a clear ask to the UKG on these issues
  • keen to ensure that what SG asks is reflective of the wants and needs of the Ukrainian community in Scotland
  • the fourth strategic priority in the Warm Scots Future paper sets out a commitment to pursue clarity on routes to settlement, family reunification and repatriation
  • SG understands the issue of uncertainty about prioritising whether to continue to work or find work, study, or return to the Ukraine, without knowing visa status

NAH welcomed any questions from the group and offered to pick up any further questions via email if preferred.

Visas presentation and discussion

One presentation was given by Oleksandr Chernykh (OC), Chair of the Ukrainian Collective’s Employment Group, titled ‘Uncertain futures: the impact of post-three-years visa ambiguity on Ukrainian integration in Scotland’.

Key points:

  • the Ukrainian Collective hopes that any solutions that are identified would be a win-win and potentially also be applicable to refugees and others in Scotland
  • in response to the unfolding humanitarian crisis in Ukraine, the UK Government established three visa schemes for displaced Ukrainians: 
    • Family Scheme for those with family members in the UK.
    • an Extension Scheme for those who held a valid UK visa on or after 1 January 2022
    • Sponsorship Scheme through which displaced Ukrainians are sponsored by hosts that offer them accommodation for at least six months. The Scottish Government acted as a super sponser for the scheme but applications have been paused since 13 July 2022
  • UKG statistic for Scotland, England, Wales and Northern Ireland (as of 14 November 2023) show that for Scotland there have been:
    • 8,450 visa applications sponsored by individuals with 6,710 visas issued and 5,445 arrivals
    • 38,304 visa applications sponsored by the Scottish Government with 32,613 visas issued and 26,594 arrivals
  • all refugees and displaced people need additional time for integration and support:
    • around half (48%) of Homes for Ukraine scheme sponsors were providing accommodation at the time of the survey (10 to 21 August 2023), and around half of those (48%) had been providing accommodation for 12 months or more
    • two-thirds (67%) of current hosts said that the rising cost of living is affecting their ability to provide support to some extent
    • around half (51%) of current hosts intended to provide accommodation for 18 months or longer; most of these (67%) said this was because they had built a strong relationship with their guests
    • almost all sponsors (99%) believed that guests need help to move into private rented accommodation or to find independent living arrangements
  • unveiling impact: how visa status shapes Ukrainian futures in Scotland. This can be broken down as follows:
    • employment and requalification – requalification can take 1-2 years and the uncertain position on visas is impacting on this. Crisis in labour market – there are hundreds of Ukrainian doctors who could take up work but this is blocking the opportunities
    • education – for adults - ESOL level 7 takes 2-3 years to study and take exams. This issue is highlighted by a case study of a pharmacist whose visa expires in 18 months, but needs ESOL 7 in order to practice (taking two years) and whose local college only provides up to ESOL 5
    • education – for children / young people (S3-S6) there is a dilemma over whether they should study in Ukrainian according to their system and also in the Scottish system due to confusion over not knowing whether they are staying or returning
    • in addition to anxiety over visas, the societal effects of the continuing conflict include families forced into separation for their children’s safety, parental sacrifice - overhauling careers and reinventing lives – and children’s resilience in adapting to life in Scottish communities
  • housing in Scotland
    • the market traditionally works with rental contracts for a period of five years or more
    • the visa expiration date and visa uncertainty deter long-term rental commitments among displaced people from Ukraine. This presents a complex problem for landlords and creates a reliance on using welcome accommodation. Refugees with different migration status have fewer limitations and can freely rent
    • searching for housing for Ukrainians takes six to 12 months, and despite the ability to pay rent, many end up in city council housing due to limited private rental options

Proposed solutions in the presentation:

  • program continuity: Assessing the need for ongoing support for individuals desiring to return to Ukraine, with provisions for re-entry to the UK if required
  • Afghan Program Insights: Leveraging the five year term experience from the Afghan resettlement initiative
  • 'Homes for Ukraine' Successes: Incorporating the positive outcomes from the 'Homes for Ukraine' scheme into future planning


The Minister thanked OC for his presentation and helpful insight and emphasised the importance of having certainty from the Home Office about what comes next.

All three co-Chairs expressed disappointment that the Home Office did not send a representative to today’s meeting and committed to following up with them afterwards.

Sabir Zazai (SZ) reflected that the 26,000 visas referenced in the statistics represent 26,000 lives and hopes for the future but people are living with a sense of uncertainty and limbo which is not easy.

SZ touched on his own experience of arriving in the UK on a limited time to remain visa in 1999 and that Afghanistan is still unsettled 23 years later in spite of aims for peace. Looking at this from a conflict perspective – conflict resolution, peace building, nation building and infrastructure building all take time. People need to be able to access their rights, including their status, or leave to remain needs to be resolved.

SZ added it was unfair that those fleeing conflicts are finding it difficult to rent with landlords choosing someone with citizenship or other status over someone with limited stay.

Cllr Chalmers commented that she found the case studies very powerful in the presentation, in particular about a 14-year-old girl who is studying under two schooling systems and unable to make decisions about her future because of the uncertainty of where she will be.

Cllr Chalmers added that there was no COSLA position on the visa situation but would be happy to work with SG and others to get some resolution. The uncertainty around visas was also making it very difficult for LAs to plan ahead and support Ukrainian people.

Karen Campbell (KC), Barnardo’s, added that the points around education relating to years S3-S6 were very interesting and reflect what their young people are telling them.


The co-Chairs will write to the Home Office expressing their disappointment that no one attended today’s meeting, with a summary of the evidence presented and repeating the ask for urgent clarity on the future of visas for displaced people from Ukraine.

Representations to UK Government

  • John Hawlyruk (JH), EVOC, asked about the relationship between UKG and SG and what stakeholders can do to support advancing the SG position, highlighting a forthcoming meeting EVOC is having with UKG
  • the Minister advised she has ad hoc meetings with her UKG counterparts, there is regular engagement between officials, and the SG position is as set out in the Warm Scots Future paper

The way forward

  • Hannah Beaton-Hawryluk (HBH), AUGB Edinburgh, requested a follow up meeting on visas to keep everyone informed of any updates from the UK Government to allow people and families to plan ahead
  • the Minister confirmed that she will keep members engaged on any follow up and share any decisions from the Home Office. A progress update can be provided as part of the next SRG meeting next year
  • CB asked the UC what people would like to happen regarding visas to gather a flavour of key concerns that they are picking up.
  • Tamara Al-Om (TOA), British Red Cross, acknowledged that being in limbo may lead to more going through the asylum route, causing additional anxiety
  • Olha Maksymiak, AUGB Glasgow offered to help with stories and shared her own experience. She echoed disappointment the Home Office did not attend the meeting and suggested doing some workshops with people displaced from Ukraine

  • the Minister noted this and thanked OM for sharing her personal story


The Minister recommended to raise visas at the next SRG meeting proposed for early next year.

Visa schemes

  • SZ raised concerns that the lack of clarity might potentially be moving people from war into poverty when they should be moving from war to prosperity. The various schemes could be amalgamated, and some form of amnesty introduced as nobody knows when the war will end. The co-Chairs will write to Home Office to ask for clarity before the next SRG meeting, to resolve confusion on what action is needed to resolve this issue before reaching the deadline
  • OM - according to the last ONS research 60% of UDPs would like to stay in the UK

Legal options

  • SZ invited Jennifer Blair (JB) formerly of JustRight, now Barrister to the Ukraine Advice Scotland Project, to consider the legal options
  • JB outlined the previous legal routes that are similar and how the immigration rules would need to be changed to accommodate different Ukraine Scheme visa extension/family reunion models. Her opinion was that the main options are:
  • tweak the Ukraine Extension Scheme to remove the deadline/limit on three years max leave and people would be able to use that to renew their Ukraine Scheme visas in-country. The scheme could then be amended to mirror the previous six year route to settlement for people who claimed asylum but were granted leave on other grounds, providing a route to settlement for Ukraine visa holders after two periods of three years’ leave.
  • alternatively, Ukraine Scheme visas could be automatically extended (as is being done with pre-settled status in the EU Settlement Scheme) but require an application for settlement if Ukraine Scheme visa holders want more than a further grant of time-limited leave. An automatic renewal would stop people from becoming overstayers if they don’t manage to renew their visas in time. If automatic extension is not used, then allowances could be considered in the caseworker guidance for late applications.
  • a third option could be to mirror the resettlement visa route to either convert Ukraine Scheme visas to automatic settlement or to provide a five-year route to settlement. The UK recognises a five-year route to settlement is fair for refugee/humanitarian protection, family and work visas, so it is the most normal period of probationary leave prior to settlement.
  • the Minister thanked JB and concluded discussions. She and the Cabinet Secretary are in close contact with the Consul and need to provide a balance allowing those to return to Ukraine if they want to.
  • NAH added that while SG can make representations, SG cannot make those decisions. She would welcome any specific comments SG can include in its thinking particularly for those asks SG is making around visas in the Warm Scots Future paper, family reunification and voluntary repatriation


NAH to take forward discussions with JB.

Any other business , next meeting and close

  • the suggested theme of the next meeting, ‘Reflections’, was agreed
  • the Secretariat will be in touch with a date for the next meeting in early 2024
  • the note of this meeting will be published online
  • the Minister closed the meeting with a wish for everyone to enjoy the holiday season

Summary of actions:

  • the co-Chairs will write to the Home Office to share the issues raised today with the intention to prompt further discussion
  • NAH to take forward discussions with JB
  • visas to be included in discussions at next SRG meeting next year
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