13 March 2023

Thousands of Ukrainians in Scotland living in inappropriate housing

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A year on from the launch of the Scottish Government’s Super Sponsorship Scheme, thousands of people displaced from Ukraine are still living in temporary accommodation in Scotland, according to a report from the British Red Cross.

The charity warns this accommodation, which includes passenger liners, is not appropriate for people who have been displaced from their homes.

This is highlighted in the report: Fearing, fleeing, facing the future: how people displaced by the conflict in Ukraine are finding safety in the UK, which reflects on the successes and challenges of the UK’s response to people fleeing the conflict in Ukraine, including by the Scottish Government.

The Super Sponsorship Scheme – allowing Ukrainians to select the Scottish Government as their sponsor, receive a visa and travel immediately to Scotland – resulted in unexpectedly high numbers of applications.

There’s much to be celebrated in the way the Scottish Government helped people arrive safely. However, the British Red Cross warns the scheme hasn’t had the infrastructure needed to meet demand and calls on the Scottish Government to rectify this for future schemes.

As of 7 February 2023, 23,282 arrivals had reached Scotland out of a total 37,964 visas issued.

In July 2022, the Scottish government temporarily paused the scheme and later asked many of those yet to arrive on the Super Sponsorship Scheme to consider alternative options, due to a lack of accommodation.

People living on windowless ships

At the end of 2022 there were more than 6,800 Ukrainians still living in temporary ‘welcome accommodation’ in Scotland. This included more than 4,400 people staying in hotel rooms and more than 2,400 were on two chartered passenger liners.

The ships are situated in isolated docks and the majority of rooms on one of them are windowless. People staying on board are not told how long they will be there for - creating further stress and uncertainty for people.

While there are plans to move people off one ship by the end of March, the contract for the second ship has been extended until the end of June.

As the largest provider of refugee services in the UK, the British Red Cross is calling on the Scottish Government to prioritise moving people displaced from Ukraine into suitable long-term accommodation that meets their needs as soon as possible.

The charity says the Scottish Government should work with COSLA to implement a rent deposit scheme to help Ukrainians meet the upfront costs of moving into private rental properties, by paying their deposits and acting as a guarantor.

Ukrainian families at risk of homelessness

The Scottish Government doesn’t currently monitor the number of people from Ukraine at risk of homelessness but it’s been reported at least 310 people are seeking homelessness support from local councils.

Cost-of-living pressures and barriers to securing private accommodation have played a major part in this, according to the British Red Cross.

The charity is urging the Scottish Government to monitor and publish the number of people at risk of homelessness, so that it can provide support to those who need it and prevent the numbers from growing.

It is also urging governments at every level to share learnings from their response to the conflict in Ukraine and work with the British Red Cross to improve the UK’s wider policies – from family reunions for refugees, to the process for seeking asylum. It is encouraging policy makers to consider how safe routes could be expanded to others seeking refuge.

Rob Murray, British Red Cross Director for Scotland, said:

“The Super Sponsorship Scheme should be celebrated for allowing thousands of people to escape the conflict in Ukraine. But one year on, too many Ukrainians are still living in limbo, unable to properly settle in Scotland because they’re staying on ships and in hotel rooms.

"We're worried there’s a real risk of families becoming homeless or spending long periods of time in inappropriate accommodation. 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.”

British Red Cross calls for action and clarity from UK government

The British Red Cross is also calling for further action and clarity from the UK Government to support people displaced by the conflict in Ukraine and prevent thousands more people being pushed into poverty and homelessness. The charity is urging the UK Government to:

  • Make sure both hosts and displaced Ukrainians under the Ukraine Family Scheme receive the same support as those on the Homes for Ukraine Scheme
  • Immediately increase monthly payments for all hosts in line with the rising cost of living
  • Work with national and local governments to share best practice and rapidly develop ways to prevent homelessness and help people into the private rented sector. This should include schemes supporting Ukrainians with rent deposits
  • Clarify the details and allocation of the £150 million one-off funding for local authorities so they can address growing housing needs
  • Deliver on its 2022 commitment to allow people on the Ukraine Family Scheme to be rematched with hosts who offer their homes through the Homes for Ukraine Scheme


Notes to editors

1. Source for arrivals in Scotland and England homelessness figures: 9 Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (2023), Homelessness management information – Ukrainian nationals: England 24 February – 27 January 2023. Retrieved from: gov. uk/government/publications/homelessness-management-information-ukrainian-nationals-england  

2. As of December 2022, 6,840 people displaced by the conflict in Ukraine were in welcome accommodation in Scotland; 4,425 people were occupying hotel rooms and 2,415 people were staying on two chartered passenger liners.

a. Scottish Government (2022). ‘Ukraine Sponsorship Scheme in Scotland: statistics - December 2022’. Retrieved from: gov.scot/ publications/ukraine-sponsorship-scheme-in-scotland-statistics-december-2022/pages/ukraine-sponsorship-scheme-and-longer-term-accommodation/

b. BBC News (2022). ‘Ukrainian refugee cruise ship deal extended’. Retrieved from: bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-edinburgh-east-fife-63845498

3. Conditions on the ship: Parliament Scot (2022). ‘CC questions 22 August 22, ref: S6W-10452’. Retrieved from: parliament.scot/ chamber-and-committees/questions-and-answers/ question?ref=S6W-10452

4. The British Red Cross is the UK’s largest refugee service provider. Over the last year, it has supported more than 60,000 Ukrainians in the UK with help including emergency cash, emotional support and SIM cards. In addition, the charity’s refugee services have helped more than 2,000 Ukrainians in the UK who are struggling with accommodation, food and basic supplies.

a. In Scotland, the charity has supported 8,536 Ukrainians with cash assistance and its refugee services have helped more than 200 people with general enquiries and casework.