Writing in the Edinburgh Evening News today (Wednesday 29 June), Council Leader Cammy Day thanks officers and volunteers for doing all they can to support refugees.
The news agenda may move on, but we cannot and must not forget the plight of the people of Ukraine.
When I present my first report to Council as leader tomorrow, I’ll use the opportunity to praise the extraordinary effort of people and businesses across Edinburgh to provide whatever help they can in these most desperate of times.
On a recent visit to the Ukrainian Community Club with the Consul General, Yevhen Mankovskyi, I was able to see this first hand and to spend some time with people who have fled the war and are now settling here.
From landing and being immediately received by volunteers at the Airport, to getting help with accommodation and other needs at our Welcome Hub, to receiving ongoing support at our advice centre and within the local Ukrainian community, we’re here for Ukraine’s refugees every step of the way.
It’s clear that the processes we have in place are working – and very much appreciated – and we need to keep adapting and responding as the conflict continues and more people arrive. We’ve now welcomed around 5,000 people to and through Edinburgh, with over 2,500 arriving through the Welcome Hub. But we know that Edinburgh's population near enough doubles every August, so we're already looking at how we can manage capacity during festival time.
We’ve also been able to recruit some incredible new Ukrainian colleagues who’ve gone through the process themselves to help us with interpretation and customer care.
I had the pleasure of meeting one of new recruits last week, Alan Sufi, who was in fact the very first person to step foot through our Welcome Hub back in March. Having left Kharkiv, Alan and his family have been supported to settle into accommodation and with officers’ support, his children were settling into school within three days. They were gifted free bikes and have been able to get their bearings and visit different parts of the city as they find their feet and get to know their new home. It was great to see Alan enjoying his new role and life in the Capital and I wish him all the very best with his new life here.
Seeing all of this work in person has been humbling and I hope many other employers follow suit and consider making roles accessible to Ukrainian people. We have people arriving with a great variety of skills who are desperate to find jobs and the Council and the Capital City Partnership are providing employment advice at 249 High Street to those who are keen.
We all have a great responsibility to those settling into our communities, so I want to end by reiterate my thanks to the many volunteers and officers who continue to go above and beyond the day job, working long shifts and all times of the day. The latest figures show that together they have clocked up at least 3,465 hours day and night over 496 shifts, providing 536 rucksacks filled with donations and support to arrivals and their hosts.
As we see the scale of our response continue to grow, we’ll need to rely on the goodwill of our people and city even more. Please do what you can.
(Image of Council Leader Cammy Day. Photo credit the Edinburgh Reporter)