- Millions of Ukrainians have fled the country since the Russian invasion in February.
- About 2,400 have lived aboard cruise ships docked in Scotland for the past five or six months.
- One family told the BBC they started a “small community of Ukrainians” on the boat in Glasgow.
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Thousands of Ukrainians fleeing war after Russia invaded have found themselves in an unusual living situation over the past six months as they have settled on the water aboard two cruise ships docked in Scotland.
“The first few weeks were very exciting,” Andriy, who left Ukraine with his wife Natasha, their children and some belongings, told BBC Scotland. “I have three children and we have two small shacks.”
Andriy and his family are among the nearly 1,200 Ukrainians who have made their home on the MS Ambition cruise ship since September. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February created a humanitarian crisis, with millions of Ukrainians displaced and seeking shelter far from the fighting.
The Scottish Government has contracted two cruise ships to serve as temporary accommodation for Ukrainians fleeing the war, with MS Ambition docked in Glasgow and a second ship docked in Edinburgh. This ship, the MS Victoria, has housed another 1,200 or so Ukrainians.
“We have a job center on the ship, the Scottish Government and City Council are advising us on how to integrate here,” Andriy told the BBC, adding that conditions on the ship are “good” and his family are “grateful”. there is room to stay.
“We also have English courses and we started our own community on the ship. There are people who like to sing together, it was like a little social experiment, a little community of Ukrainians,” he added. “But on a ship you’re pretty isolated from society.”
The Scottish Government’s contract with MS Ambition expires on March 31st. Authorities have said they are working with local Glasgow officials to find more permanent accommodation for families like Andriy’s, who have called the ship home.
“Our focus now is on securing sustainable longer-term housing for Ukrainians to ensure they have the support they need to build a home in Scotland for as long as they need it,” said Neil Gray, Scotlands Minister for Refugees from Ukraine, this week.
The Scottish Refugee Council, an independent charity, said it had been helping the refugees by holding information sessions on the ship each week and was in the process of helping them find new accommodation. These efforts include matching refugees with local volunteers who are willing to host them.
Andriy told the BBC his family is “grateful for the people of Scotland” and would love to return home to Ukraine once the fighting stops. He said he was looking for work and wanted to be able to pay for his family’s housing.
“There is uncertainty about what will happen next, but Ukrainians are used to uncertainty and we will get through this somehow,” he said.
The Scottish Government extended the contract for the MS Victoria until June, which was met with criticism.
“This is not a new life, it is a new limbo. Ukrainian refugees deserve a long-term solution,” Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Alex Cole-Hamilton said of the extension.
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