500 Ukrainians stuck in hotels amid 'block' in Scottish Government super-sponsor scheme
"Where is the block?" – the Ukrainian consul general today questioned why refugees stuck in hotels are still waiting for hosts under the Scottish Government’s super-sponsor scheme.
Around 500 Ukrainians have stayed in hotels for "a month or more", MSPs heard, as they wait to be matched with suitable hosts under the Holyrood initiative that aims to speed-up the visa and accommodation process for those fleeing Russia's war.
Yevhen Mankovskyi, the Ukrainian consul in Edinburgh, said mothers with multiple children are finding the conditions especially hard and questioned why social housing in Glasgow was set to be destroyed instead of provided to such families.
He said: "There is social housing in Glasgow, but it was decided that it should be destroyed because it's not okay any more.
"Our community there have mentioned that they have spoken to the people who have been moved from the social housing just few months ago, and they thought like yeah, this building just needs some renewal.
"We have discussed this with the Scottish Government and they have mentioned that it's not suitable any more."
On the super-sponsor scheme matches, he said: "I can't tell you where it's blocked, I'm not in charge on this.
"People with whom I talk everyday, they don't understand where is the block.
"There are a lot of host families who have applied."
Appearing before the Constitution, Europe, External Affairs and Culture Committee, Mankovskyi said the problem may be because the Ukrainians "want to stay in Glasgow or Edinburgh".
He said some Ukrainian city-dwellers who were relocated to the Highlands and other rural areas have been "really happy" because "of its amazing views, fresh air, just brilliant", but quickly started to feel "a little bit nervous and a little bit crazy" because they miss the city. He said: "They need again to move to the big city just to live their life."
The consul praised Scottish and local government support, including the provision of welcome hubs and the laying-on of coaches to take Ukraine fans to Hampden Park for the country's match against Scotland.
But he said without wider provision of free travel, families are struggling to visit information points to gain guidance and advice.
Refugees minister Neil Gray told the panel that an £11m scheme will "bring void properties back into use" for long-term housing for Ukrainians. And he said the matching service "does work", but is a "challenge" due to "different reasons" including a change in circumstances for prospective hosts.
The session heard that as well as those yet to find host accommodation, questions are emerging for those refugees who arrived earlier in the programme and whose initial six-month residency with a host is entering its final weeks.
Gray said efforts continue to move families on from hotels and "nobody in Scotland" should use social media to find matches. He said: "That's the whole point of the super sponsor scheme, it makes it safer. We don't need people running the risk of well-meaning social media pages that are offering rematching or matching services, that is not needed in Scotland. The Scottish Government will match you and if the match breaks down, contact your welcome hub, contact your local resettlement team, contact the Scottish Government, contact your MSP – anyone – but you do not need to go through social media sites.
"There are major safeguarding concerns that I have – I’ve articulated to UK ministers around the prevalence of them elsewhere in the UK and about how that is posing a major risk to the Homes for Ukraine scheme elsewhere. I cannot stress highly enough how people should not be using social media to try to find private matches."