Cruise ship accommodation for Ukrainian refugees in Scotland is “inappropriate”, a report has warned.
The British Red Cross research looked at the successes and challenges of the hosting scheme across the UK and warns temporary accommodation housing refugees such as cruise ships and hotels is inappropriate for displaced people.
Many of those staying in such accommodation have been staying in “windowless” cabins with no timescale of when they will be moved into more permanent accommodation, the charity said.
The British Red Cross said some people have lived on board the ship for as long as seven months without any clear indication of when they will be moved to more permanent accommodation.
Accommodation for people fleeing conflict should reflect the trauma they have experienced and it would be better for people to live in communities, offering more opportunities where they can integrate into neighbourhoods and access work, schools, healthcare and other services, the charity said.
The super sponsorship scheme, which allowed Ukrainians to select the Scottish Government as their sponsor and receive a visa to travel to Scotland immediately, had unexpectedly high numbers of applications, the British Red Cross said.
But the charity warned the scheme does not have the infrastructure required to meet the demand and the charity has called on the Scottish Government to rectify this for future schemes.
More than 23,000 arrivals have reached Scotland as of February 7, 2023 – out of a total 37,964 visas issued.
About 6800 Ukrainians are still living in temporary “welcome accommodation” in Scotland, including more than 4,400 living in hotel rooms and 2,400 living on chartered cruise liners in Edinburgh and Glasgow.
The charity said the ships are situated in “isolated” docks and the majority of cabins on them are windowless.
People on board are not told how long they will be there resulting in what the charity says is further stress and uncertainty.
There are plans in place to move people from one of the ships by the end of this month, but the contract for the Edinburgh ship has been extended until the end of June, the charity said.
Rob Murray, British Red Cross director for Scotland, said many Ukrainians are “still living in limbo” and are unable to properly settle.
“We’re worried there’s a real risk of families becoming homeless or spending long periods of time in inappropriate accommodation,” he said.
“This is creating stress and uncertainty for people already dealing with the emotional impact of the conflict.
“The Scottish Government has provided a vital response for people fleeing the conflict in Ukraine. Now it must build on this by helping Ukrainians into safe, suitable and affordable accommodation in Scotland, where they can start to rebuild their lives.
“It’s important that all governments reflect on lessons from the past year to improve schemes for Ukrainians still settling in Scotland and ensure future safe routes meet people’s needs on arrival.”
The British Red Cross is one of the largest providers of refugee services in the UK and is calling on the Scottish Government to prioritise moving people displaced from Ukraine into suitable accommodation that meets their needs as soon as possible.
They have also recommended the Scottish Government should work with local authorities body Cosla to implement a rent-deposit scheme to meet the upfront costs of moving into private rental properties by paying the deposits for refugees and acting as a guarantor.
Neil Gray, minister with special responsibility for refugees from Ukraine, said: “Since the start of the illegal war against Ukraine, more than 23,000 people with a Scottish sponsor have arrived in the UK, the most per head of any of the four nations and equivalent to the population of Arbroath or Bathgate.
“The pace and numbers of people who have arrived in Scotland is unprecedented and compares, for example, to the 3,000 people who arrived over five years through the Syrian resettlement scheme.
“We are proud of the warm Scottish welcome we’ve been able to extend to them assisted by the voluntary sector and local authorities across the country.
“The Scottish Government is working intensively with local authorities to match people into longer-term accommodation and our priority is to ensure safe and sustainable accommodation can be provided.
“Our longer term resettlement fund is making up to £50m available to bring empty and void council and registered social landlord properties into use to increase the housing supply.”
Gray said Scottish Government officials have worked closely with the British Red Cross throughout the Ukraine crisis to support and welcome displaced people coming to Scotland.
He added: “The Red Cross are established resilience partners who regularly offer volunteers to local authorities and other responders, wherever additional third-sector support is needed.”