Edinburgh stands united with Ukraine two years on - Cammy Day

Cammy DayCammy Day
Cammy Day
It is difficult to comprehend that almost two years have passed since Russia shattered peace and stability on the European continent with their full-scale illegal invasion of Ukraine on February 24, 2022.

As of the end of 2023, close to 6.4 million refugees from Ukraine were recorded globally by the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR). This represents one of the largest humanitarian crises seen since the end of the Second World War. The UN also recorded that over 10,000 Ukrainian civilians have now been murdered by Russian forces.

As Kyiv’s twin city I’m hugely proud of the role that Edinburgh’s communities have played in helping those fleeing Russia’s illegal war. Residents, volunteers, and colleagues have worked tirelessly to help our new arrivals, opening their hearts and in many cases their homes to Ukrainians in their time of need. During this period we have welcomed over 11,000 Ukrainians through our Welcome Hub first at Gogarburn House and now in our new Hub at Flassches Yard which I opened alongside the Secretary of State for Scotland, Alister Jack, last October.

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I would like to pay tribute to all those who have worked tirelessly on the effort to receive and assimilate Ukrainians into their new lives here. This collective response encompassing the public, private and third sectors is a testament to the spirit of our capital city and conveys the very best qualities of our citizens. I would also like to emphasise to the 3,000 Ukrainians who have made their new homes here in Edinburgh that you have our unwavering support and solidarity.

Earlier this week the Lord Provost welcomed frontline medics from Ukraine as they visited Edinburgh on their UK-wide tour, alongside an ambulance damaged on the Kherson front which serves as a powerful visual reminder of the brutality of this illegal war.

This past weekend also saw the UK Government announce an 18-month extension to the visas of Ukrainians who have arrived in our country over the past two years. Whilst this provides some certainty to those Ukrainians in Edinburgh and beyond, we must be absolutely clear about the massive scale of the challenges we face in the medium to long-term when it comes to housing, education, and care. I look forward to working with the UK and Scottish Governments as we confront these issues.

While the 18-month extension is welcome, I was disappointed to hear the UK Government has now shortened the validity period of visas for Ukrainians arriving under the Homes for Ukraine scheme from 36 months to 18 months. This now creates an unintended two-tier system for Ukrainians seeking safety from Russia’s invasion.

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On Saturday (February 24), alongside the Lord Provost Robert Aldridge, representatives from the Scottish Government, Association of Ukrainians in Great Britain and other partners, I will be laying a wreath of remembrance at the Scottish National War Memorial at Edinburgh Castle. Our thoughts remain with all those fighting for freedom in Ukraine, those who have fallen in defence of their country and for all those who have had to abandon their homes and lives.

I wholeheartedly hope that the next year will bring a lasting peace and an end to this terrible full-scale illegal war against Ukraine by Russia.