Why MS Victoria in Leith Docks cannot be used for asylum seekers – Cammy Day
Over the last year and a half, we’ve shown solidarity with, and support for, thousands of Ukrainian refugees who have fled Russia’s illegal war on Ukraine, as we have for Syrian, Afghani and, most recently, Sudanese refugees. Thankfully most of us will never experience the horrors these communities have faced, and we remain absolutely committed to supporting them in whatever way we can.
As Ukrainian refugees continue to disembark MS Victoria following the Scottish Government’s decision to end its use next month, we were extremely surprised to be contacted by the Home Office about their intentions to commission the ship to house asylum seekers. All the more surprising given their previous advice that it would be impossible for it to remain.
We were not consulted on this and urgently require further details from the UK Government on their plans. I know the Scottish Government and Cosla are in the same position and, having written jointly to the minister of state for immigration, Robert Jenrick MP, we’ve yet to receive a satisfactory response to our questions and concerns. The fact that Forth Ports, which owns the dock and has said it can’t accommodate the ship, hasn’t yet been contacted sums up the complete lack of engagement by the Home Office.
The potential consequences for the council in terms of the pressures on our services – and the city as a whole – are severe and, barring robust partnership discussions involving NHS, police, and other colleagues, we will continue to oppose these plans in the strongest terms.
Many of these people have risked their lives to make it to Europe and what they need is recognition and rights, not an unknown future without the support they so desperately need. While the MS Victoria has been a place of refuge for many Ukrainian people, until we have adequate reassurances from the UK Government regarding welfare and ongoing engagement and support, we cannot allow it to become a “floating prison” for asylum seekers.
Editor’s note: We have been asked to point out that the UK Government has a legal obligation to provide asylum seekers, who would otherwise be destitute, with support which can include accommodation. Individuals are not detained and are free to come and go, therefore to describe such accommodation as a “prison” is wrong.
Taking trams to Newhaven
I was privileged to cut the ribbon and launch the passenger services on the brand new tramline to Newhaven. For the first time in almost 70 years, people were able to travel by tram through Leith, and there was a real sense of excitement on board and along the route, where community groups turned out to help us celebrate the occasion.
I’m delighted that, thanks to the hard work of all those involved, we’ve been able to deliver the project on time and on budget. I’d like to thank all those who live on or own businesses along the route – they’ve shown such perseverance throughout this major, complex project and I hope that they’ll now be able to enjoy the many benefits the new service will bring.
There’s no doubt the success of this scheme owes much to the lessons learned from the original tram project. As we await the findings of Lord Hardie’s inquiry, I’m confident that we already have the processes in place to deliver major infrastructure schemes effectively.
Passenger figures are well up on expectations since the new line opened on June 7, which demonstrates the project is already making a positive difference, and I look forward to seeing the network continuing to flourish in the years ahead.
Cammy Day is the Labour leader of Edinburgh Council