Ukrainian mum on Edinburgh cruise ship 'desperate' to find a stable home in city before being relocated
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Marta Shved, who was forced to flee Ukraine after war broke out last year, has been living on a cruise ship docked in Leith since October with her 10-year-old son and other family members. However, next month, they are being moved off the MS Victoria – and may not be able to remain in the Capital. The 36-year-old has been told that the Scottish Government will likely relocate them to a hotel in another area of Scotland.
After more than a year of moving every few months, Marta and her family are determined to stay in Edinburgh – where they have put down roots. Her 10-year-old son and other young family members are settled in schools, and Marta’s cousin has found a full-time job in the Capital that she doesn’t want to leave behind.
As the Government cannot house them in Edinburgh, due to limited accommodation options, the family have explored every avenue – including securing council houses and private rental flats, however, they have been unsuccessful after four months of searching. Marta says she has been turned down by rent agencies for not having a high enough salary and not being able to provide a UK guarantor. “It seems like no-one wants to give us a chance”, she said, “We face a very difficult situation. Time is passing and we don’t know what to do. We’re feeling a little bit desperate”.
Despite living in a six metre square room with no window on the ship she shared with her 10-year-old son for over six months, Marta said she is “really grateful” to be safe in Scotland. However, she said: "I never planned to live somewhere else. I had a wonderful life in Ukraine – my own home, a good job, my kids were attending private school.” Marta even tried to return to her home country before coming to Scotland, after originally fleeing to Poland, but was forced to leave again, when air raids, sirens and bombing disrupted her and her son’s life.
While Marta is thankful for the support she has received from the council and the Government, she is upset that they cannot provide her family with stability. She said: “Changing our location, our flat, and the school every six months is really stressful”. Marta is currently suffering from depression, but feels she would be more mentally healthy if she could secure some long-term comfortable accommodation for her and her son. "We’d just like to have stability”, she said.
Responding to this, social justice secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville said: “Since the start of the illegal war against Ukraine, almost 24,500 people with a Scottish sponsor have arrived in the UK, over 19,000 of which arrived through our own super sponsor scheme.
“We do not want anyone to spend any longer than is necessary in welcome accommodation, and the use of MS Victoria was always intended as a temporary measure. We are now in the process of disembarking the MS Victoria, closely supporting all Ukrainian guests to move on to suitable alternative accommodation. Given existing pressure on accommodation within Edinburgh, guests are being encouraged to consider suitable longer term options outwith the city.
“Securing longer term and more settled accommodation for displaced people remains a key priority for the Scottish Government. So far, we have matched over 5,800 individuals into longer term accommodation, including through the use of our existing and new volunteer hosts. We are also providing support to help people secure jobs, education and access public services.”