War in Ukraine: Scottish Government Super Sponsor scheme for refugees will not re-start in near future after targets not met

The Scottish Government is not likely to restart its super sponsor scheme for Ukrainian refugees in the near future after it emerged it has fallen far short of its own targets in helping those fleeing the conflict to find long-term homes.

The scheme, which allowed Ukrainians to name the Scottish Government as their sponsor for a UK Government Homes for Ukraine visa, rather than find an individual host, was paused, supposedly for three months, on July 13.

The pause was to allow the Government to catch up with a backlog of new arrivals and match them to long-term accommodation, with the three month deadline having now passed.

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Critics have warned the criteria could be used as an excuse by the Government never to re-start the scheme, which was lauded as a safer and better alternative to Ukrainian families finding hosts on social media, as those accepted into England had to do.

Some Ukrainian refugees have been living on cruise ship MS Victoria in Leith for weeks.Some Ukrainian refugees have been living on cruise ship MS Victoria in Leith for weeks.
Some Ukrainian refugees have been living on cruise ship MS Victoria in Leith for weeks.

A review of the way the Government handles the influx of refugees from Ukraine is being drawn up. It is believed to include a set of criteria which ministers believe the scheme must meet before it can be re-started. However, The Scotsman has learned the criteria, including the current number of refugees living in temporary accommodation and the speed at which Ukrainian families are being moved into more permanent housing, are far from being met at present.

Refugees minister Neil Gray is to reveal the findings of the review in a statement to Parliament next week.

The latest Government figures show a total of 21,012 displaced people from Ukraine have arrived in Scotland. Of those, 82 per cent (17,218 people) were sponsored by the Scottish Government under its super sponsor scheme. However, around 30,000 visas have been issued under the super sponsor scheme, meaning, in theory, an extra 13,000 refugees from Ukraine could arrive in Scotland at any time.

This comes as Ireland has warned it cannot cope with any more refugees, with some ministers admitting any newcomers may have to sleep on the streets amid an accommodation crisis.

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Alex Cole-Hamilton said he believed Scotland would never meet the criteria to re-start the scheme.

“This feels a bit like [former prime minister] Gordon Brown setting five economic tests for the Euro, knowing we would never achieve it,” he said. "The minister is playing clever politics here, but that is cold comfort to those fleeing Russian rockets in UK towns and cities.

"It is clear we will never achieve the tests set out in this review because we still have around 13,000 refugees making their way across Europe with existing Super Sponsor visas, with a wish and a promise of a home in Scotland and nowhere to put them. This isn’t a new life, it is a new limbo.”

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Around 5,000 Ukrainians have arrived in Scotland on previously-issued super sponsor visas over the past two months alone. It emerged last month that “worst-case scenario” plans were being drawn up in case of a huge influx of arrivals, including the use of mass refugee reception centres using dormitory-style emergency accommodation in large halls. The Government is already using two cruise ships – in Edinburgh and Glasgow – as temporary accommodation, as well as hotels. However, many people have been living in temporary housing for months.

The Government refused to comment on the criteria set out in the review to allow the super sponsor scheme to re-start.

Mr Gray said: “I am proud that thanks in large part to our super sponsor scheme, we are now providing sanctuary to more displaced people from Ukraine per head of population than any other part of the UK.

"The Scottish Government has been undertaking a review of the super sponsor scheme with our partners, in order to ensure we can provide sustainable longer-term support for people. I will provide a statement to Parliament next week.”



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