Edinburgh welcomes 1,300 Ukrainian refugees through welcome hub

More than 1,300 people fleeing the conflict in Ukraine have arrived in Scotland through Edinburgh’s “welcome hub”.

By Ian Swanson
Saturday, 21st May 2022, 4:55 am

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The hub, at Gogarburn House on the RBS campus close to the airport, offers immediate help and support for the refugees after long and difficult journeys, with medical assistance from the NHS available. Staffed by volunteers and council officers, it welcomes around 40 new refugees a day, about four times the national average.

Council chief executive Andrew Kerr said: “I am truly proud of the incredible response Edinburgh has provided to Ukrainians seeking sanctuary here in Edinburgh. The support we’ve provided to over 1,300 refugees to date wouldn’t be possible without the time of volunteers, the donations we’ve received or the generosity of residents. The number of local people giving over their hearts and their homes to become host families has been nothing short of remarkable.”

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He said up to 90 per cent of all refugee arrivals to Scotland were coming through Edinburgh’s hub. “I’m pleased that the feedback from those using our services has been very positive and other cities have been turning to Edinburgh as an example of best practice. There is a significant ongoing effort to ensure every refugee settling in the city receives a warm welcome and access to vital support. We are committed to supporting every person who settles in Edinburgh, as far as we possibly can. This includes everything from arranging accommodation, transport, interpreters, access to GPs and healthcare, counselling, education, employment support, host checks and other vital services.”

Hannah Beaton-Hawryluk, chair of the Association of Ukrainians in Edinburgh, said: “We have come full circle from the association being set up. We were beginning to become quite a quiet community here in Edinburgh, but now we are using the community centre for the reasons that our fathers set it up. We are supporting newly-arrived Ukrainians and their families in Edinburgh, until they choose to go home.

“We've been giving out SIM cards and bus passes. We've also got laptops and iPads so that the students who have arrived can continue their studies and stay connected to Ukraine. Edinburgh has been amazing. I can't say anything other than that.”

Free transport is provided from the airport to the hub and onward travel is organised to hotel or host accommodation. People settling in Edinburgh under the Homes for Ukraine and Super Sponsor schemes, receive the first part of their £200 resettlement grant at the hub.

Volunteers, council staff and organisations across the Capital are making sure Ulrainian refugees are getting a warm welcome to Edinburgh.

There is a 24-hour helpline for Ukraine arrivals in Edinburgh, which handles more than 50 calls a day. And as an extension of the welcome hub, a specialist drop-in facility has been set up at 249 High Street, operating Monday to Friday, 10am-12pm and 2-4pm, with an interpreter present to help people with benefit and grant payments.

The Ukrainian Club on Royal Terrace has become a point of community support and communications for people when they settle, with regular coffee mornings and events where they can get advice and support.

Alongside local community efforts, the Visitor Attractions Group in the Capital have provided free tickets to key city attractions, including the Castle and the Zoo. Edinburgh Leisure have provided passes for leisure centres, while Boots have donated toiletries, Clarks have donated shoes and NatWest has provided office space for the welcome hub.

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