Ukrainian refugees abandon Leith ship as housing contract ends

MS Victoria, anchored in Leith, hosted more than 1,000 Ukrainians seeking refuge from the Russian invasion.

The ship was used whilst suitable accommodation was sourced when the Scottish Government discontinued their Super Sponsorship scheme in July 2022 due to popular demand.

READ MORE: Exclusive tour aboard Ukraine cruise ship

More than 20,000 Ukrainians traveled to Scotland as part of the programme.

However, the Scottish Government’s contract with Forth Ports has now expired, meaning that alternative accommodation had to be found.


MS Victoria

Social Affairs Secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville said: “Nearly 25,000 people have arrived in the UK with a Scottish sponsor since the start of the illegal war against Ukraine, more than 20,000 of them through the Scottish Government’s Super Sponsor Scheme.”

“Secured to provide an immediate place of safety for displaced persons, the MS Victoria was always intended as a temporary measure.

“In advance of the contract expiration on July 11, the ship has now been fully and safely disembarked and all guests have been assisted with onward accommodation.

“I would like to say a big thank you to everyone involved in supporting the displaced people from Ukraine living on the ship, as well as those who helped them relocate to alternative housing.”

Figures released by the Scottish Liberal Democrats on Monday showed a further 3,180 Ukrainians had been accommodated in welcome accommodation such as hotels by June 5.


The Home Office had previously expressed its intention to place asylum seekers on the ship once current contact ended – sparking outrage from Edinburgh City Council leader Cammy Day and First Minister Humza Yousaf.

READ MORE: Members of the Scottish Parliament hear stories from asylum seekers

The UK government said the decision was due to a “significant increase in illegal, unnecessary and dangerous Channel crossings” which is causing “an incredible strain on accommodation facilities for asylum seekers”.

However, Forth Ports said no contact had been made from the UK government and the plans could not go ahead at the facility due to commitments to create an offshore renewable energy hub.

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