SNP faces backlash over plan to move Ukrainian families to CRUISE SHIP

Nicola Sturgeon’s ‘betrayal’ of Ukraine refugees: SNP faces backlash over plans to move families to a CRUISE SHIP and tower blocks with potentially dangerous cladding

  • Refugees fleeing from war-torn Ukraine have been ‘betrayed’ by the SNP
  • Many have been sent to cramped and potentially dangerous accommodation
  • The Government was forced into pausing its ‘super sponsor’ scheme because it is struggling to provide suitable housing for Ukrainians relocating to Scotland

Refugees fleeing from war-torn Ukraine to Scotland have been ‘betrayed’ by the SNP Government, it has been claimed.

Despite Nicola Sturgeon proclaiming in March that the nation ‘stood ready’ to take in thousands of Ukrainians, many have been sent to cramped and potentially dangerous accommodation.

Controversial plans to house hundreds of refugees on a cruise ship were criticised as a major health risk, while further safety concerns were raised about sending others to live in tower blocks with potentially dangerous cladding.

Others have been moved between hotels so many times they fear they may be left homeless.

The debacle came after the SNP Government was forced into pausing its ‘super sponsor’ scheme because it is struggling to provide suitable housing for Ukrainians relocating to Scotland.

Despite Nicola Sturgeon proclaiming in March that the nation ‘stood ready’ to take in thousands of Ukrainians, many have been sent to cramped and potentially dangerous accommodation

It has led to claims that the Scottish Government rushed into announcing plans it was unable to deliver and that it has promised to take in more refugees than it can handle.

Scottish Tory housing spokesman Miles Briggs said: ‘SNP ministers have typically overpromised and underdelivered. The pausing of the super sponsor scheme, that they spent so much time talking up, represents a betrayal of those Ukrainian refugees.’

Last night, the Scottish Refugee Council (SRC) raised serious concerns about a controversial plan to move people to a 739-room cruise ferry docked in Edinburgh, saying families could struggle to secure jobs or places in school while they are based there.

The vessel is being provided as part of a contract that is expected to cost more than £1million a month.

Gary Christie, head of policy at the SRC, said: ‘If families are arriving, we would want the kids to be in schools quite quickly, and in terms of resolving employment and whether this can be used as an address when people are applying for jobs.

‘If people are there for relatively short periods of time then that’s fine. But if people are there any longer there are issues about young people’s schooling and status for employment, and I think that is our concern.’

He added: ‘We totally understand the pressures on accommodation, and this is shared across Europe in terms of Ukrainians arriving and governments struggling to find accommodation. It is a humanitarian response, so we would see it as a few weeks maximum that people should be staying 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 were also raised about the use of tower blocks with potentially dangerous cladding.

Hugh Pennington, emeritus professor of bacteriology at Aberdeen University, told the Scottish Sun on Sunday that using the ship is a ‘very risky move’ because of the threat of a ‘big outbreak’ of Covid-19.

Last week, North Lanarkshire Council announced plans to bring 200 empty homes back into use with £5million of Scottish Government funding to reinstate two blocks of flats at Wishaw and Coatbridge.

But the Sunday Post yesterday revealed the buildings feature high-pressure laminate cladding, which has come under scrutiny since the Grenfell Tower fire in London.

Yevgen Chub, of the Associations of Ukrainians in Great Britain, said: ‘We can’t have people from Ukraine escaping one threatening situation and going into another. We need to be sure that these flats are completely safe’.

In March, Nicola Sturgeon criticised the UK Government’s response, saying bureaucracy and red tape were slowing the process down ‘when what is needed is humanity and urgent refuge for as many as possible.’

Controversial plans to house hundreds of refugees on a cruise ship were criticised as a major health risk. Pictured, the MS Victoria, a former ferry, has space for 769 people and is being rented by the Scottish Government for six months initially due to a shortage of suitable housing in Scotland

However, around 500 refugees are yet to be housed. Concerns have also been raised about families having to endure repeated moves between hotels.

Ukrainian aid worker Zhenya Dove, who has been living in Scotland for eight years, said the shortage of accommodation is a consequence of Scotland accepting a higher proportion of refugees than its population share.

She said: ‘I think they may have bitten off more than they can chew. I actually am not surprised that there is a shortage of accommodation, that does seem a natural consequence of the Scottish super sponsor scheme.

‘As far as I am aware there are another 18,000 applications currently being looked at, and Scotland is a tiny country.’

But she added that living on a ship must be ‘better than living under bombing and shelling’.

Tetyana Podoltsev and her 15-year-old son Mykyta told the Sunday Mail they feared being left on the streets after being told to leave their hotel last week.

Mykyta said: ‘We panicked – we had nowhere else to go. We were scared we were going to be on the streets. We have now been moved to the Radisson Blu Hotel in Glasgow and told we will be here for a few days but after that we have no idea.’

Steve Valdez-Symonds, refugee programme director at Amnesty International’s UK branch, said: ‘Scotland, Wales and the Government at Westminster need to create a proper strategy for playing our part in the world’s need to house refugees, not just for today but in the future, rather than waiting for a crisis and then flailing around trying to respond to it.’

A Scottish Government spokesman said: ‘The health and welfare of all displaced Ukrainians staying in Scotland remains our absolute priority.

‘We do not wish to see displaced people spending more time in temporary accommodation than is absolutely necessary, but it is important to ensure that longer-term accommodation is safe, suitable, and sustainable. Scotland is currently providing sanctuary to more than 8,000 people fleeing the crisis caused by Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine. This includes two-thirds who applied under the Scottish super sponsor scheme, with more expected to arrive over the summer.

‘This exceeds the 3,000 the Scottish Government committed to welcome when the scheme launched in March.’ 

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