Ukraine refugees in Edinburgh must not be uprooted from their new communities – Steve Cardownie

The Scottish Government’s introduction of a ‘super sponsor’ initiative to make it easier for Ukrainian refugees to reach safety in Scotland may now be a victim of its own success as unforeseen consequences appear to be mounting up.

Wednesday, 27th July 2022, 4:55 am
The MS Victoria is to house refugees from Ukraine in Leith
The MS Victoria is to house refugees from Ukraine in Leith

Rather than try and match up with a host family before travelling, visa applicants can cite the Scottish Government as their sponsor, thereby speeding up the whole process for the thousands of women and children who are seeking refuge in Scotland.

However, the scheme has now been suspended for three months as the government tries to come to terms with the effect of providing for the number of refugees who are currently here.

When it operated, Edinburgh arrivals would be escorted to the “hub” that had been established in the grounds of the Royal Bank of Scotland at Gogarburn, where they would be advised of the services that would be accessible to them and then placed in accommodation that had been additionally acquired as part of the scheme.

I witnessed this process on several occasions and was pleased to see that the new arrivals were given a warm welcome and treated sympathetically.

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As men between the ages of 18 to 60 are prohibited from leaving Ukraine, the women and children who made it to these shores were not only relieved but were also extremely concerned about the welfare of the loved ones they were forced to leave behind.

Many of the mothers told me that they would have preferred to have stayed in Ukraine to assist the war effort but had to make the difficult decision to leave for the sake of their children’s safety. They did, however, resolve to return to their homeland once it was safe to do so.

So far, so good but it now seems that the Scottish Government’s well-intentioned intervention has created some serious issues as the number of refugees has far outweighed the government’s own commitment to accommodate 3000 arrivals, causing the scheme to be overstretched.

However, the news that an Estonian cruise ship with 739 cabins, MS Victoria, currently docked at Leith, is to be used to house Ukrainian families in an attempt to resolve the accommodation problem authorities are now faced with has not met with universal approval.

Some critics have pointed out that the cramped conditions are not suitable for young families and others have expressed concern that local schools will not be able to cope, and that this, coupled with the additional strain that will inevitably be felt by GPs, dental surgeries and such like, could potentially create conflict with local residents.

But what of the Ukrainian families that have already found refuge in Edinburgh? Children have enrolled in schools at primary and secondary level within their current catchment areas.

Younger children have found places in local nurseries, families have registered with their local GPs and dental surgeries. They are taking English lessons and have forged friendships within their local communities, joining clubs and taking part in local activities.

Many families have been housed in close proximity to each other, enabling them to offer much needed support to those who need it most. Are they to be uprooted and split apart?

Given what they have gone through, they deserve much better than that!