In spite of Nicola Sturgeon When it was announced in March that the nation was “ready” to accept thousands of Ukrainians, many were sent to cramped and potentially dangerous quarters.
Controversial plans to house hundreds of refugees on a cruise ship have been criticized as a major health risk, while further security concerns have been raised about sending others into high-rise buildings with potentially dangerous cladding.
Others have been moved between hotels so often that they fear being made homeless.
The debacle came after the SNP government was forced to pause its “supersponsor” scheme because it was struggling to provide suitable housing for Ukrainians relocating to Scotland.
Although Nicola Sturgeon announced in March that the nation was “ready” to accept thousands of Ukrainians, many have been sent to cramped and potentially dangerous quarters
Controversial plans to accommodate hundreds of refugees on a cruise ship have been criticized as a major health risk. The pictured MS Victoria, a former ferry, has room for 769 people and is being rented by the Scottish Government for an initial period of six months due to the lack of suitable accommodation in Scotland
It has led to claims that the Scottish Government has hastily announced plans it cannot implement and has promised to take in more refugees than it can handle.
Scottish Tory housing spokesman Miles Briggs said: “SNP ministers have usually over promised and not delivered. Disrupting the super sponsorship program they have spent so much time speaking out represents a betrayal of these Ukrainian refugees.’
Last night, the Scottish Refugee Council (SRC) raised serious concerns about a controversial plan to put people on a 739-room cruise ferry docking in Edinburgh, saying families may struggle to secure jobs or school places while they are there are stationed.
The ship will be provided under a contract expected to cost in excess of £1million a month.
Gary Christie, Head of Policy at the SRC, said: “When families arrive we want the children to be in schools fairly quickly and in terms of finding employment and whether that can be used as an address when people apply jobs.
“If people are only there for a relatively short time, that’s fine. But if people stay there longer, there are problems with schooling and young people’s status for employment, and I think that’s our concern.’
He added: “We fully understand the pressure on shelters and this is shared across Europe when Ukrainians arrive and governments struggle to find shelter. It is a humanitarian measure so we would consider it a maximum of a couple of weeks that people should stay there. It shouldn’t be a long-term option.’
Health experts have also raised concerns that there could be a Covid outbreak on the MS Victoria, while fears have also been raised over the use of high-rise buildings with potentially dangerous cladding.
Hugh Pennington, professor emeritus of bacteriology at Aberdeen University, told the Scottish Sun on Sunday that using the ship was a “very risky move” because of the risk of a “major outbreak” of Covid-19.
Last week North Lanarkshire Council announced plans to bring 200 vacant houses back into service with £5million in Scottish Government funding to restore two blocks of flats in Wishaw and Coatbridge.
But the Sunday Post revealed yesterday that the buildings feature high-pressure laminate cladding, which has come under scrutiny since the Grenfell Tower fire in London.
Yevgen Chub of the Unions of Ukrainians in the UK said: “We cannot allow people from Ukraine to escape from one threatening situation and find themselves in another. We have to be sure that these apartments are absolutely safe.”
In March, Nicola Sturgeon criticized the UK government’s response, saying red tape and bureaucracy are slowing down the process “when it comes to humanity and urgent refugee needs for as many as possible”.
However, around 500 refugees still have to be accommodated. Concerns have also been raised about families having to switch between hotels repeatedly.
Ukrainian aid worker Zhenya Dove, who has lived in Scotland for eight years, said the lack of shelter is a result of Scotland receiving a higher proportion of refugees than its population.
She said: “I think they may have bitten off more than they can chew. I’m actually not surprised that there is a lack of accommodation, this seems to be a natural consequence of Scotland’s super sponsorship scheme.
“As far as I know, a further 18,000 applications are currently being examined and Scotland is a tiny country.”
But she added that life on a ship “has to be better than life under bombs and shells”.
Tetyana Podoltsev and her 15-year-old son Mykyta told the Sunday Mail they feared being left on the street after being told to leave their hotel last week.
Mykyta said: “We panicked – we had nowhere else to go. We were afraid to stand on the street. We’ve now moved to the Radisson Blu Hotel in Glasgow and told ourselves we’d be staying for a few days, but after that we have no idea.”
Steve Valdez-Symonds, refugee program director at Amnesty International’s UK office, said: “Scotland, Wales and the Government in Westminster need to develop an appropriate strategy to do our part to ensure that the world needs to accommodate refugees, not just today, but also in the future future instead of waiting for a crisis and then banging around and trying to respond to it.’
A Scottish Government spokesman said: “The health and well-being of all displaced Ukrainians in Scotland remains our absolute priority.
“We do not want displaced people to spend more time in emergency shelters than is strictly necessary, but it is important to ensure that longer-term shelters are safe, appropriate and sustainable. Scotland is currently hosting more than 8,000 people fleeing the crisis caused by Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine. These include two-thirds who have applied through Scotland’s Supersponsor scheme and more are expected to arrive over the summer.
“This exceeds the 3,000 that the Scottish Government pledged when the scheme was launched in March.”