Scottish Government ‘pauses’ Ukraine refugee sponsor scheme
The Scottish Government is temporarily suspending its super sponsor scheme for Ukrainian refugees.
The three-month pause will take effect from Wednesday morning.
It has attributed the suspension to an uptick in applicants in recent weeks.
Minister Neil Gray said the government would “review” the position in three months’ time.
The scheme was set up in the days after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine to allow those fleeing their homes to come to the UK.
It sits under the wider UK government scheme but allows refugees to name the Scottish Government as its sponsor instead of organisations or individuals, as is the case south of the border.
The Welsh government set up a similar scheme but last month suspended it.
Gray said: “With a recent decrease in people applying for private sponsorship in England, and Wales having paused their own scheme, the number of applications naming the Scottish Government as sponsor has increased considerably in recent weeks.
“For this reason, we have taken the incredibly difficult decision to follow Wales in pausing our scheme so we can continue to provide a high level of support and care to everyone who has already been granted a visa.
“We will review our position in three months, but of course if circumstances change during that time, we will bring that date forward.”
The government has been criticised recently after it was revealed hundreds of Ukrainian refugees are still being housed in hotels rather than permanent accommodation.
It is now set to provide funding to North Lanarkshire Council to bring two tower blocks back into use, with the first flats to become available in the next six weeks.
The government has also committed to deploying extra staff to assist local authorities with matching refugees with long-term accommodation, and it is set to charter the MS Victoria – to be docked in Leith – to provide 739 more rooms for temporary housing.
The Scottish Refugee Council has urged the govermnent to ensure the scheme will restart as soon as possible as the "war in Ukraine hasn’t paused and the need for escape routes out of Ukraine hasn’t gone away".
Gary Christie, head of policy, added: "The Scottish Government and local authorities must use this time to urgently put in place the necessary infrastructure so that more Ukrainians can arrive and receive the most appropriate accommodation and support and the scheme can re-start as soon as possible.
“We are also seeking urgent assurances that any stays on board the ship will be as short as possible, that people will be able to access all necessary services and support and that their rights will not be affected or jeopardised in any way.”
Those who have already made an application or had their visa granted will not be impacted by the pause.