Mass refugee reception centres ‘considered for Ukrainians arriving in Scotland’

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Mass refugee reception centres could be opened in Scotland to temporarily house thousands fleeing the war in Ukraine, it has been suggested.

Preparations for a “worst-case scenario” – where almost 18,000 people from Ukraine could arrive after being granted super sponsor visas – are being considered by government officials, the Scotsman reported on Friday.

Dormitory-style emergency accommodation in halls could also be created as part of the emergency measures, the newspaper said.

The Scottish Government’s super sponsor scheme was paused in July in order to provide safe accommodation to those who had already applied following unprecedented demand.

At the time the scheme was suspended, visa applications listing the Scottish Government as a sponsor had increased by 21% while arrivals under the super sponsor scheme had gone up by 20%.

Freedom Ballet of Ukraine
The MS Victoria ferry, berthed in the Port of Leith is providing temporary accommodation to Ukrainian refugees (Jane Barlow/PA)

The report claimed there are now concerns that huge numbers of those who have been granted a visa but have not yet travelled to Scotland could still arrive in the country at a time where many are still waiting to be matched to suitable longer-term accommodation.

A full review of the situation is not due to be published for a number of weeks.

It comes as a second cruise ship chartered to provide accommodation to Ukrainian refugees arrived in Glasgow on Thursday.

The MS Ambition, located at King George V docks on the River Clyde, will provide shelter for up to 1,750 people in 714 cabins and has restaurants, child play facilities, shops and communal spaces.

It joins the MS Victoria, which is currently housing hundreds of Ukrainians in Leith, Edinburgh.

Earlier this week, Scottish Government minister Neil Gray said he was working to “maximise” all options for long-term accommodation.

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “The Scottish Government continues to explore all options to ensure that there is sufficient and safe accommodation for any displaced people from Ukraine arriving in Scotland.

“This includes contingency plans for emergency accommodation as well as increasing temporary accommodation, by for example getting the second ship, which has now docked in Glasgow, prepared to safely host displaced people from Ukraine.

“The welfare of all displaced Ukrainians staying across the country remains the Scottish Government’s absolute priority.

“Almost 16,000 displaced people have arrived with a sponsor located in Scotland, the most per head of any of the four nations across the UK.

“This represents 18% of all UK arrivals with more than three-quarters of these arrivals coming through the successful super sponsor scheme.”

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Alex Cole-Hamilton said: “When the Russian invasion happened, the Nicola Sturgeon spin machine leapt in to action to promise the world.

“Unfortunately, just like every other SNP promise, once the press conference was done, actually doing the hard work of securing housing didn’t seem quite so important.

“As a result, we are facing the prospect of Hurricane Katrina-esque scenes of refugees crammed into sports halls.

“It certainly means Scottish Government claims that the use of cruise ships is merely a temporary solution is dead in the water.

“The Scottish Government needs to launch a fresh public call for homes and hosts, and increase support for local authorities to conduct disclosure checks of hosts, vetting of accommodation and matching of guests.

“The people fleeing here from Ukraine need long-term solutions, not short-term fixes.”