Ukraine: Russia: 'Where is the block'?, asks Ukrainian consul as refugees stuck in Scottish hotels for weeks

The Ukrainian consul general in Scotland has asked MSPs ‘where is the block?’ as he outlined the plight of families stuck in hotels for weeks without being found a match under the Scottish Government super sponsor scheme.

Speaking to the Constitution, Europe, External Affairs and Culture Committee, Yevhen Mankovskyi, Ukrainian Consul in Edinburgh, said that mothers with children were finding it particularly difficult to exist in temporary hotel accommodation.

He added that he had spoken to Scottish sponsors who were willing to take in Ukrainians, but had not yet been matched with any refugees – while he said many who had arrived with the Scottish Government as a sponsor were still stuck in temporary hotel accommodation assigned by the welcome hubs.

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He pointed to social housing in Glasgow that had been taken out of use by the city council, saying that those desperate to flee war in Ukraine would be happy with that accommodation.

Yevhen Mankovskyi, Ukrainian Consul in Edinburgh, with First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, earlier this year.

"Where is the block?” he asked. "Unfortunately I can’t tell you where the block is, because I’m not in charge of this. People I talk to every day, they don't understand where the block is. There are a lot of families who have applied also to be a host, so where is the block to match them? We don’t understand.”

H said individuals who had travelled to Scotland without dependants often did not mind being in temporary accommodation – but said the problem was for families, who wanted to find children a place in school and put down community roots.

He said: “Those who are here alone, yes, they want to have their own accommodation or just to live maybe in house or flats with sponsors, but at the same time because they're in a safe place [in a hotel], they’re happy. But social housing or accommodation is very important for mums with kids because they will feel more comfortable.”

Refugees minister Neil Gray, who also appeared in front of the committee, insisted that the “matching service does work”.

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Mr Mankovskyi also called for there to be translators available for Ukrainians arriving to the three Welcome Hubs in Edinburgh, Glasgow and Cairnryan and called on Scotland to introduce as free travel pass for Ukrainians, as other European countries such as Poland and Germany have done. Some councils have some free bus tickets available, but there is not currently a Scotland-wide solution to the problem.

He said that people were finding it difficult to visit essential information points due to transport costs, such as the Ukrainian community centre in Edinburgh, where help and resources are available for new arrivals.

He said: “Transport is not cheap. Even those who live in different parts of Edinburgh and want to visit the community centre for information, it is not cheap for them. Every coin is important.”

Mr Gray said councils were working under a £11 million scheme to “bring void properties back into use” for long term social housing for Ukrainians.

“We don't want people in hotels for any longer than is absolutely necessary," he said, acknowledging the “pressures” on mothers with young children. “I cannot imagine the challenge that would be living out of a hotel room.”

He added: "The matching service does work. We just need to make sure it is happening as quickly as possible."

He said he had sympathy for those who were in limbo for a more permanent situation – as well as those living with hosts who were already nearing the initial six month limit of their time with a host. Under the Homes for Ukraine scheme, hosts were asked to commit to a minimum of six months and reports have claimed that some refugees have already been given notice to leave when the period ends.

He said: "That feeling of transience, of not knowing where your home actually is, must be incredibly challenging and very hard and that’s why I’m so determined to do everything we can to provide the initial sanctuary in Scotland – but also give people the support they need to be able to rebuild their lives and ensure they can call Scotland their home for as long as possible.”

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