Fife MSP calls for support for Ukrainian seasonal workers
At First Minsters Questions today, Scottish Green MSP for Mid Scotland and Fife – Mark Ruskell - raised urgent concerns about the support available for Ukrainian seasonal workers in Scotland, many of whom are currently excluded from the UK’s Ukraine Family Scheme.
It is estimated that there could be thousands of Ukrainian nationals currently living in Scotland on seasonal worker visas, primarily in agricultural industries, many living in North East Fife. Under current amended immigration rules, Ukrainians on seasonal worker visas will have their visas extended until the end of December 2022 but must continue working in a job permitted by the existing Seasonal Worker route and with the same sponsor. Those on seasonal worker visas will also remain excluded from mainstream benefits and support, due to being subject to No Recourse to Public Funds conditions.
The UK Government today announced that they would be streamlining the process for visa applications to the Ukraine Family Scheme, however they fell short of expanding the scheme’s eligibility to include those on seasonal worker visas in the UK. No further concessions have yet been announced to support those on seasonal worker visas to access public funds or more secure immigration statuses for themselves or their families.
Responding to Mr Ruskell’s question in Holyrood, the First Minister agreed that the Ukraine Family Scheme was “horrendously bureaucratic” and confirmed that the Scottish Government will continue to call on the UK government to waive visas for all those fleeing the conflict.
Commenting further, Mark Ruskell said:
“Today’s announcement from the UK Government on the Ukrainian humanitarian scheme is significant, but it does not go anywhere near far enough. Ultimately, the UK Government must get their head out of the sand and urgently set up safe passage by waiving visas for people fleeing Ukraine.
“I am also deeply concerned that the situation for some Ukrainians living in the UK is unfathomably restrictive. Ukrainian seasonal workers across Scotland are still barred from bringing their family members caught up in the conflict to safety, and many are still subject to abhorrent No Recourse to Public Funds conditions.
“Clearly, the brutal bureaucracy of the UK Government’s approach is not limited to their actions at the border but is evident in the lack of support it has provided to Ukrainian seasonal workers currently living in Scotland and the UK.
“Rather than doubling down on the hostile environment, the UK Government must take urgent action to provide safety and security for Ukrainian nationals on seasonal worker visas, at least by providing them with access to public funds and allowing them to bring family members to safety in Scotland through the Ukraine Family Scheme. Anything less than that would be completely unacceptable.
“Communities across Fife have shown incredible solidarity with the people of Ukraine over the past weeks. It’s about time the UK Government matched the generosity and spirit of the public who stand ready to welcome and support refugees.”