Scotland outlines ‘super-sponsor’ proposal in commitment to support Ukrainian refugees.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has outlined the Scottish Government’s commitment to maximise its contribution to the UK Government’s community sponsorship scheme, whilst emphasising it must provide more clarity on how the scheme will work.
It is expected that Ukrainians will be able to apply to come to the UK if they have been matched with a ‘sponsor’ who will provide accommodation.
The Scottish Government are continuing to call for the UK Government to drop deliberatively obstructive visas requirements. But additionally, we and the Welsh Government have asked to be appointed sponsors so we can oversee re-settlement in our own countries, working along with local authorities and individuals. That way we could ensure supportive and humane treatment of such refugees.
I already have a small number of constituents and organisations willing to take in people fleeing the conflict and the Scottish Government are working through how all of this will be delivered in practice.
In a joint letter to Levelling Up Secretary Michael Gove, the First Minister and First Minister of Wales Mark Drakeford have proposed that the Scottish and Welsh Governments act as ‘super sponsors’.
This would enable Ukrainians to get clearance to come to Scotland or Wales quickly and be accommodated temporarily, while the Scottish and Welsh governments then work with local partners to provide longer term accommodation (including where appropriate with private individuals who have volunteered rooms), safeguarding and access to services.
The letter makes clear that no cap will be set by Scotland and Wales on the numbers of refugees they will welcome.
As an immediate commitment Scotland has offered to support 3,000 refugees in the initial wave, in line with the numbers that were resettled under the Syrian scheme. Overall, the Scottish Government is committed to welcoming at least a proportionate share of the total number who come to the UK. The letter says it is essential all arrivals have access to public funds including welfare benefits, and are exempted from the Habitual Residence Test for accessing these.
In addition, the First Ministers’ letter calls for urgent clarity on funding arrangements to support local government and suggests a per head funding arrangement similar to the Syrian and Afghanistan schemes to support resettlement and integration costs.
While committed to doing everything possible to make the UK government’s proposed scheme a success, the First Ministers also renewed their call on the UK Government to waive all visa requirements for Ukrainian nationals.
– First Minister Nicola Sturgeon
I want Scotland to play our full part in welcoming Ukrainians seeking sanctuary from war. The UK response so far has been beset with bureaucracy and red tape, when what is needed is humanity and urgent refuge for as many as possible.
We are still awaiting full details of the proposed community sponsorship scheme. If the UK government is still unwilling to waive visa requirements, it is essential that this scheme works efficiently and effectively and allows people to come to the UK as quickly as possible.
However, I am very worried that if people have to be matched with an individual sponsor before even being allowed entry to the UK, it will prove slow and cumbersome.
That is why the First Minister of Wales and I have made the ‘super sponsor’ proposal. We are proposing that our governments act as initial ‘super sponsors’ to allow large numbers to come to our respective nations quickly. Once they are here, and accommodated temporarily, we will then work with local partners to match people with longer term accommodation, including from members of the public who are volunteering rooms, and put in place safeguarding and support services – but while we do all of this, people will be safely here.
I have committed to supporting 3,000 Ukrainians coming to Scotland in the immediate wave – and at least a proportionate share of those who come to the UK overall.
I hope the UK government agrees to this proposal so that we can get on with welcoming Ukrainians to Scotland as soon as possible.