Scottish ministers renew call for visa waiver as UK opens homes for Ukrainians

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Scottish ministers have renewed their calls for the need for Ukrainians to demand a visa waiver as the country prepares to take in thousands of people fleeing the conflict.

The British government launched the sponsorship program – Homes for Ukraine – to enable people and organizations to give displaced Ukrainians housing on Monday afternoon.

Those who offer accommodation will receive a tax-free monthly payment of £350 which will not affect benefit entitlements or the council’s tax status.

This weekend Nicola Sturgeon and Mark Drakeford announced that Scotland and Wales were willing to become ‘super sponsors’ for refugees, to which Communities Secretary Michael Gove said ‘we are doing everything what we can to facilitate this”.

But in response to the scheme, the Scottish Government’s Minister for Refugees from Ukraine, Neil Gray, renewed his calls for the UK Government to waive all visa requirements for Ukrainian nationals, “and prioritize people, not processes.

He said there were concerns that the sponsorship program was slow and cumbersome and lacked proper support and protection.

“By acting as a ‘super sponsor’ rather than waiting for the UK government’s matching process, we can immediately offer people safety and refuge and welcome significant numbers of refugees from Ukraine to Scotland,” he said. he declares.

Mr Gray said this would include providing temporary accommodation and overall support while longer-term arrangements are put in place.

He added: “While noting that Leveling Up Secretary of State Michael Gove has said the UK Government will do everything possible to facilitate our offer, we await the UK Government’s detailed response to our proposals.

“We are keen to support people now, so we will be lobbying the UK government for details that did not emerge today.”

Speaking about the scheme, SNP home affairs spokesman Stuart McDonald said: ‘We will do all we can to support this initiative.

“But we very much regret that it is only the first phase today, things are still not going fast enough.”

He called on the government to “completely stop asking Ukrainians to apply for visas.”

He asked if the £350 a month would be available to sponsors such as community groups as well as individuals, and pushed for the Scottish and Welsh governments to operate as ‘super sponsors’.

Earlier, Mr Gray said he expected Scotland to be able to house at least 3,000 refugees from Ukraine, and that there was no limit to the number of refugees.

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