Greenock Telegraph 9th September 2022

When the war in Ukraine started, the Scottish Government promised to take 3,000 refugees and when the process was being strangled with red tape by the UK Home Office, the Scottish Government introduced the Super Sponsor scheme to speed up the process in Scotland. The bureaucracy around immigration is at times clumsy and obstructive, but of course there is also the need to exercise caution, getting the balance right is key. Through the Super Sponsor scheme, we have proven that we can safely accommodate many more Ukrainian refugees than we expected and much quicker. The latest figure in Scotland is 15,000, that is 18% of the entire UK figure. But this is an on-going crisis, war still rages in Ukraine and more people will be displaced. Providing immediate shelter is crucial but we must be seeking to house refugees in our community in the long term. To do this we need the UK Home Office to process asylum seekers in a timely fashion. Unfortunately, going by the experience of those currently housed in the Holiday Inn this is not happening. An initial six-month period to start interviewing and processing has extended to a suggested eighteen months to two years. These men have been driven out of their homelands and many desire to work and contribute to their new country. But they can’t until the Home Office gives them settled status. By keeping them in hotels and pushing them from pillar to post, by slowing down the process, we deny them the chance to move on with their lives, we prohibit local employers access to an able and keen workforce, and we ostracise asylum seekers who should be building new lives as new Scots. Inverclyde has a proud tradition of accepting immigrants from many countries and hopefully that will continue but the UK Home Office has to take action to facilitate that sooner rather than later.