Scotland to pause Ukrainian refugee sponsorship scheme amid lack of homes | Scotland

Scotland is to pause its Ukrainian refugee sponsorship scheme for three months as it faces a lack of suitable accommodation, the government has announced.

Pausing the scheme would “ensure that those displaced people who are already here, and those who will arrive in the coming months, will be safe, secure and supported for as long as they need, after the dangers they have faced at home”, a government statement said.

So far, 4,666 of a total of 7,000 Ukrainians who have arrived in Scotland have done so under the “super-sponsor scheme”, which was launched on 18 March. The country expects to welcome an additional 18,000 people in the coming months, meaning it will have issued more visas than England, Wales and Northern Ireland per head of the population.

Should numbers continue at this pace, local authorities may have to resort to emergency accommodation, which the government said was “not a sustainable solution” and would fall short of the “warm Scottish welcome” they were seeking to offer traumatised and vulnerable people.

The Scottish government has called for the UK government to waive all visa requirements. Under the scheme – which is set to be shelved on Wednesday – people applying for a UK visa can select the Scottish government as a sponsor. Only once the UK Home Office approves the application can the refugee travel to Scotland.

As of 5 July, government figures show visa applications listing Scotland as the sponsor were up 21% from the previous week, with visas issued up 27% and arrivals under the sponsor scheme up 20%.

With figures expected to rise, the Scottish government has secured additional accommodation in hotels and university campuses, and recently chartered a passenger ship to provide additional temporary housing with 739 rooms for six months from July.

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North Lanarkshire council has also announced plans to reinstate two residential towers, previously poised for demolition, to house Ukrainian refugees. The council said 200 homes would be available for use in six weeks’ time.

“I know that the people of North Lanarkshire will welcome those who face such an uncertain time with their usual warmth and generosity, and I am pleased that we can move quickly to assist,” said Jordan Linden, the leader of North Lanarkshire council.

Scotland’s announcement comes after the Welsh government paused a similar scheme on 10 June. Scotland’s three-month pause would not affect the nearly 18,000 sponsor scheme applicants yet to arrive, the government said.

The UK government’s Homes for Ukraine scheme – which pairs refugees with families in England – has been marked by a series of problems. In May, it was revealed the government was scrambling to rehouse hundreds of Ukrainians granted visas under the scheme because the people they were supposed to stay with had been deemed “unsuitable”.

Neil Gray, a Scottish minister with special responsibility for Ukrainian refugees, said the temporary pause was one “we obviously didn’t want” but would ensure Scotland continued “to provide the welcome people from Ukraine deserve”.

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