Ukraine war: Fife Council in talks with Polish counterparts over practical help for refugees

Officers from Fife Council have held talks with counterparts in Poland over what practical help the local authority can provide as Ukraine’s humanitarian crisis unfolds.

By Craig Smith, Local Democracy Reporting Service
Friday, 11th March 2022, 12:34 pm

Fife has close cultural and business links with the Kujaswko-Pomorksie (K-P) region of Poland in particular, and several thousand Ukranian nationals have arrived there following the Russian invasion.

With that in mind, Fife Council has reached out to the K-P region to offer support where it can - including a commitment to bolster relief efforts for Ukrainian refugees.

Around 95% of refugees are currently being housed with Polish households, but there are fears the K-P region is starting to experience its own shortages of key items, including basic medicines and medical supplies, some food items, and clothing to purchase.

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A woman who fled war-town Ukraine holds a baby as she walks to board a train to transport them to Przemysl main train station after crossing the Polish Ukrainian border. (Photo by Omar Marques/Getty Images)

Officials in K-P have therefore shared a list of shortage supply areas with Fife Council officers, who will in turn look at options for Fife and Scottish firms more widely to supply these goods.

Fife will also share its expertise of carrying out successful resettlement schemes, such as the recent Afghan and Syrian ones, as the K-P region is not experienced in developing systemic solutions which would provide a framework for supporting Ukrainian refugees in the long-term beyond the initial effort organised ad hoc by thousands of volunteers rather than the state.

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The news came to light in a briefing note to councillors from Gordon Mole, head of business and employability at Fife Council, who highlighted some of the issues being faced by officials in the K-P region.

Women and children who have fled war-town Ukraine walk to board a train to transport them to Przemysl main train station after crossing the Polish Ukrainian border (Photo by Omar Marques/Getty Images)

“The situation in Ukraine, and in Poland, is rapidly evolving,” he said.

“Officers will continue to monitor developments and update on actions.

“The existing links with the K-P region provide an opportunity to share information and intelligence, as well as establish practical actions to support the wider relief efforts for Ukrainians displaced by conflict.”

The K-P region has established a logistics chain to consolidate supplies and move these to the Ukrainian border, where they are onward moved to locations in Ukraine, and Fife firms will have the chance to support that when a fuller picture of exactly what is needed emerges.

Mr Mole added that concerns raised by Fife companies about the impact the Ukraine crisis will have on them have been “limited”, with most relating to how firms could sponsor seasonal workers to remain in the UK beyond their seasonal agricultural workers’ scheme visas.

SNP councillor Derek Glen was one of several elected members to speak in a debate on the Ukraine issue at full council on Thursday, and heaped praise on council officers for their tireless work into various aspects of Fife’s response to the crisis.

“History tells us that the only way to stop a bully is to stand up to them,” he said.

“And where the best time to do this might have been in 2008 when he invaded Georgia, or 2014 when he took Crimea; the next best time is now.

“Military and diplomatic decisions, of course, are not in Scotland's ambit at present.

“We have no voice at any of those tables, and the voices who represent us internationally are not ones of our choosing.

“What we can do is provide assistance - a welcome for those displaced by war; and humanitarian aid both in-country in Ukraine and in those neighbouring countries accommodating huge numbers of refugees.

“The question is not whether Scotland - and in our case Fife - stands ready to help those fleeing the terror in Ukraine; it is whether the administration in Westminster is willing to open the door so that we may.

“Yet we are stymied by a UK government which is not only failing to demonstrate leadership or even humanity in its actions; it is lying about those actions with its words.

“Where the rest of Europe is throwing open its doors and waiving regulations in order to rapidly help people who are scared, separated from their loved ones, and have had to leave everything behind, Britain is still more interested in maintaining barriers to entry, and dragging its heels on sanctions.

“Like everyone, I am appalled at the events in Ukraine; they are as outrageous as they are heart-breaking.

“But I am mortified to my core that our country is being represented to the world by Boris Johnson, Liz Truss and Priti Patel.

“This is as shaming to each and every one of us here as it is inadequate in providing any material support to the people of Ukraine in their hour of need.”

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