Amid the ongoing war in eastern Europe, a cruise ship chartered by the Scottish government welcomed its first group of Ukrainian refugees on Tuesday.
According to the BBC, MS Victoria, docked in Edinburgh, will provide people fleeing war-torn Ukraine with accommodation until they secure somewhere to stay long-term. The ship has 739 rooms and will initially house around 1,700 people.
Previously, the Scottish government had to suspend its super-sponsor scheme due to a shortage of suitable housing. However, now cabinet secretary of social justice, housing and local government Shona Robinson said that the “safety and welfare of displaced people from Ukraine, who are primarily women and children who may have experienced much stress and trauma, is of paramount importance”.
Ms Robinson also added that the ship was fully risk assessed and all crew members had child and adult protection training as a minimum.
As per Newsweek, the Ukrainian refugees living on board will be able to transit to and from the dock via shuttle buses, available 24 hours a day. There will also be services available for guests, including restaurants providing free food, child play facilities, shops, laundry, cleaning, Wi-Fi access and communal spaces.
Residents will be able to arrive and leave whenever they want as the vessel will be docked at all hours. Further, the Scottish government informed that there would be a security perimeter around the ship with proportionate security and identification checks for people moving on and off the ship.
Ms Robinson said that the success of the super-sponsor scheme can be seen in the fact that around 115 people arrived on average each day in the week to July 19. “With 9,000 displaced people with a Scottish sponsor already here, accommodating them all is always going to be a challenge,” she added.
The Scottish minister also went on to say that the government does want the Ukrainian refugees to feel comfortable during their stay, but they also don’t want people to spend more time in temporary accommodation for any longer than it is absolutely necessary.
“The Scottish government is still undertaking work to increase the capacity of the temporary accommodation and maximize the number of displaced people placed with volunteer hosts who have completed the necessary safeguarding checks,” Ms Robinson stated.