Ukraine-Russia: ‘No need’ for refugees to find their own hosts in Scotland, minister says

The Scottish Government’s super sponsor scheme means there is “no need” for private matching of refugees with Scottish hosts, the minister for refugees has told MSPs.

Neil Gray said the statutory matching service provided by the Scottish Government meant people fleeing Ukraine should not need to find their own sponsors under the Homes for Ukraine scheme, which he said opened them up to “considerable risk”.

The super sponsor scheme, which is run in Scotland and Wales and vets potential hosts before refugees arrive, is not available in England, where refugees can only apply for a visa if they have a named host who will sponsor them.

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Many have met hosts through social media, which is still a route available for refugees looking to come to Scotland, in addition to the super sponsor scheme. However, there have been claims the private system of finding hosts has been abused, with charities warning men have offered young women a safe home in return for sex.

Neil Gray said that refugees coming to Scotland should not need to find private sponsors and should instead use the Scottish Government scheme.

Mr Gray said: “I've met with Richard Harrington, my ministerial equivalent in Westminster and also Kevin Foster, the minister with responsibility for immigration at the Commons last week, where I raised areas such as this. But also my concern around this is to ensure that we are communicating effectively across the UK on safeguarding and ensuring that people arriving from Ukraine know the safest route, there is a statutory matching service operated by Scottish Government and Scottish local authorities and that there is no need for private matching.

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"One of the major concerns I have around the informal social media matching, [they are] often well-intentioned by people who are carrying it out, but it obviously poses significant risks. And I have called on the UK Government to implement a UK-wide super sponsor scheme to ensure that we can have more substantial safeguarding protections put in place across the UK.”

Scottish Labour MSP Foysol Choudhury raised concerns over the Welcome Hubs set up at Scottish airports. The Scotsman revealed last month some refugees were arriving at Glasgow Airport to find the hub was not staffed.

Mr Gray said: “I’ll continue to monitor that situation, because obviously ensuring that when they first arrive the country, that they get access to information that is clear and consistent, is of most importance to us all.”

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