Nicola Sturgeon and Mark Drakeford have said both Scotland and Wales were willing to become “super sponsors” for Ukrainian refugees.
The UK Government is set to launch a scheme where individuals and organisations can sponsor refugees to come into the country, but the Scottish and Welsh first ministers told Michael Gove, the Levelling Up Secretary, they wanted to “maximise” their contribution and act as “super sponsors”.
In a letter to Mr Gove, they also renewed their calls on Westminster to waive all visa requirements for Ukrainian nationals trying to get into the UK.
Ms Sturgeon said she wanted Scotland to play its “full part in welcoming Ukrainians seeking sanctuary from war” and criticised the UK response as one “beset with bureaucracy and red tape”.
The governments in Holyrood and Cardiff said super sponsorship would enable Ukrainians to get clearance to enter each country quickly and be housed temporarily while they work with local partners to provide longer term accommodation, safeguarding and access to services.
The Scottish First Minister said: “We are still awaiting full details of the proposed community sponsorship scheme.
“If the UK government is still unwilling to waive visa requirements, it is essential that this scheme works efficiently and effectively and allows people to come to the UK as quickly as possible.
“However, I am very worried that if people have to be matched with an individual sponsor before even being allowed entry to the UK, it will prove slow and cumbersome.”
“That is why the First Minister of Wales and I have made the ‘super sponsor’ proposal. We are proposing that our governments act as initial ‘super sponsors’ to allow large numbers to come to our respective nations quickly.”
In the first wave, the first ministers said Scotland would expect to take in 3,000 and Wales 1,000. Under the plans more would be welcomed in later waves.
In the letter to the Levelling Up Secretary, both first ministers said it was “neither reasonable nor morally acceptable to expect people fleeing war to go through complex bureaucratic processes in order to reach safety within the UK”.
They added: “The UK Government should be following the example of European countries including the Republic of Ireland by waiving all visa requirements for any Ukrainian nationals seeking refuge in the UK, as well as implementing the temporary protection regulations.”
Both Ms Sturgeon and Mr Drakeford also called for clarity on funding arrangements to support local governments, and said a per head funding arrangement similar to the Syrian and Afghanistan schemes to support resettlement and integration costs was needed.
“We are absolutely committed to playing our full part in responding to this crisis and are seeking the maximum flexibility to develop clear plans, based on evolving what has worked in the past,” the letter said.
“The Scottish and Welsh Governments, working with local authorities and other partners, are best placed to deliver and to ensure the arrangements put in place are safe, sustainable and offer true sanctuary to those fleeing war.”
Mr Gove said the “crisis in Ukraine has sent shock waves across the world as hundreds of thousands of innocent people have been forced to flee their homes, leaving everything they know and love behind”.
Next week, the UK Government will roll out the uncapped Homes for Ukraine scheme, with a website gathering expressions of interest from sponsors set to open on Monday.
Launching the scheme Mr Gove said the UK “stands behind Ukraine in their darkest hour and the British public understand the need to get as many people to safety as quickly as we can”.
“I urge people across the country to join the national effort and offer support to our Ukrainian friends. Together we can give a safe home to those who so desperately need it.”
There is no need for the refugees to have family ties to the UK, and the scheme will allow people in the UK to nominate a named Ukrainian or a named Ukrainian family to stay with them in their home, or will allow them to offer a separate property.
The Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities said it would also be working to enable communities, the voluntary sector and organisations such as charities and religious groups to sponsor groups of Ukrainians.
Ukrainians who have sponsorship will be granted three years leave to remain in the UK, with entitlement to work and access public services.
Those offering accommodation will be vetted and Ukrainian applicants will undergo security checks.
Sponsors who provide homes or a spare room rent-free for a minimum stay of six months will receive £350 per month.