Edinburgh's refugee ship: MP says she has received assurances over safeguarding and welfare checks

Edinburgh North and Leith SNP MP Deidre Brock has hit back at criticism of the Scottish Government over the cruise ship in Leith chartered to provide temporary accommodation for Ukrainians fleeing the Russian invasion.

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The first refugees have been welcomed aboard MS Victoria, but Lothian Tory MSP Miles Briggs claimed its its suitability and safety had not been properly assessed or inspected.

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However, Ms Brock said she had received assurances that the Scottish Government, the council, and their partners were fully accounting for issues such as safeguarding, public health and security.

And she added: "The Ukrainian Consul-General and members of Edinburgh’s Ukrainian Community Centre have visited the ship and expressed satisfaction with the provisions and facilities.”

The ship, berthed at Imperial dock, has been chartered until January 2023 and will provide accommodation until people secure somewhere to stay longer-term.

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Ms Brock said services on board included restaurants, play facilities, shops, laundry, Wi-Fi access and communal spaces. Guests would also have access to benefits support and healthcare services. There was also a reception with Ukrainian-speaking staff, a security perimeter around the vessel and all crew would have child and adult protection training. Guests were able to come and go as they pleased, with a shuttle bus to The Shore available 24/7.

Ms Brock said: “While some concerns about this temporary accommodation solution are understandable, it is important to deal with facts not supposition, never more so than when we're supporting vulnerable people fleeing unimaginable horrors.

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MS Victoria will house Ukrainian refugees on a temporary basis

“I will be closely monitoring the programme and have also arranged a meeting with the Minister for Refugees from Ukraine to discuss how the local community can best offer support.”

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In a letter to Ms Brock, Social Justice Secretary Shona Robison said the safety and well-being of displaced people from Ukraine was the top priority.

She wrote: “We have taken forward comprehensive joint assurance with the city council and its partners covering issues like safeguarding, public health and security.”

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A council team would have an “ongoing and visible presence” on board the ship, alongside support from the third sector and other agencies.

"Rigorous risk assessment and due diligence have been undertaken in relation to the ship. Prior to chartering the ship, our contractor flew to Estonia to see it in person and carry out safety checks, including its suitability for sailing to Scotland and taking passengers.”

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She said there would be “proportionate security and identification checks” for people moving on and off the ship.

Those staying on the ship would be able to have friends and family visit them.

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Meanwhile, the Edinburgh branch of the Association of Ukrainians in Great Britain (AUGB) posted a statement on line expressing its satisfaction with government and council checks on the ship.

It said: “Following a visit by members of our committee to the boat, we can confirm our overall satisfaction that both the Scottish Government and the city council are fully considering the welfare and safeguarding of guests while they are accommodated on the ship.

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“While everyone recognises that the initial thought of being housed on a boat may not be appropriate or appealing, we confirm that the provisions on board the ship will match and exceed the current provisions in hotels.”

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