NICOLA Sturgeon has warned that there is a failure to “properly grasping the magnitude” of the Ukrainian refugee crisis as she appealed for red tape to be cut so that “anyone fleeing Ukraine can come to the UK”.
The First Minister has renewed calls for the UK Government to relax rules further to make it easier for those fleeing the war in Ukraine to seek safety in the UK, no matter whether they have family connections or not.
Ms Sturgeon, speaking at a Holyrood committee conveners’ session, stressed her “very strong message of support to the actions the UK Government has taken” to support Ukraine, including the “imposition of very tough sanctions”.
She added: “I know there is a strong wiliness there to go even further on sanctions.
The Scottish Government stands ready to do everything we can. It is really important for countries, large and small, to provide as much humanitarian assistance as possible.”
The First Minister pointed to analysis by the UN that suggested that an estimated 650,000 people have already fled Ukraine.
She said: “Clearly there is a spiralling humanitarian crisis.
“We have already confirmed initial financial aid of £4m. We will seek to do more as this situation, unfortunately deteriorates, as it’s likely to do.
“There is a consignment of medical supplies leaving Scotland today bound for Ukraine.
“We are already in discussion with Cosla, making sure that we are prepared in a practical sense, to welcome refugees from Ukraine.”
Ms Sturgeon added: “We have recent experience through the Syrian resettlement scheme, more recent experience through the Afghan resettlements efforts.
“But I don’t think any of us are properly grasping the magnitude of what the war in Ukraine may result in in terms of population displacement.”
The First Minister said she was “encouraging the UK Government to go much further than it has done so far in enabling people to come to the UK from Ukraine”.
She added that there have been “some positive steps” but warned the eligibility from the Tory Government “still lags way behind the European Union”.
Ms Sturgeon said: “I would appeal again to the UK Government to effectively have a situation where anyone fleeing Ukraine can come to the UK and we deal with the paperwork and the bureaucracy later.
“That’s the humanitarian response that is required.”