Homes for Ukraine

Homes for Ukraine scheme set to launch this week

A new refugee scheme is set to be launched by the government this week in response to the refugee crisis caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine which, according to the United Nations, has seen over 2.5 million people forced to flee their homes.

The Homes for Ukraine scheme will allow people within the UK to offer Ukrainians shelter in their property, be it a spare room in their house or a separate property. Refugees and hosts will be vetted. Hosts will be given £350 month from the government to thank them for their help, and will be expected to commit for a minimum of six months. Ukrainians will be able to live, work, and use public services in the UK for up to three years. At least £10,500 of funding per refugee will also be given to local authorities.

It is said that 2,000 people had already signed up to the Homes for Ukraine scheme over the weekend, though thousands more are expected to sign up. A website allowing people to register their interest went live on Monday with more information. The website says:

“If you have a named person who you wish to sponsor you should get in contact with them directly and prepare to fill in a visa application with all their details and yours. The visa application will go live on Friday 18 March.

If you don’t know anyone who you wish to sponsor you may wish to get in touch with charities, faith groups or local community organisations who are starting to make connections between individuals.”

It is not clear if the government plans to take a more active role in matching Ukrainians with those volunteering to take them into their property.

The Homes for Ukraine scheme is set to have “no cap” on how many people can arrive in the UK, according to Health Secretary Sajid Javid. Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the number of refugees arriving in the UK would “rise very sharply”, and the Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Michael Gove, predicted the new scheme would allow “tens of thousands” to take refuge in the UK.

Javid said:

“I’m pleased that we are doing this because as a country we have a very proud record of offering sanctuary to people from wars and from conflicts.”

The UK has thus far been criticised for only taking in a small number of refugees, largely due to the Home Office requiring security checks, meanwhile the European Union is allowing Ukrainians three-year residency without a visa. Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer described the process as “too slow, too narrow, too mean”. The latest Home Office figures show that 4,000 visas have now been granted under the existing scheme, which allows those with family in Ukraine to bring their relatives to the UK.

On why the scheme will require security checks on refugees in order to obtain a visa, Johnson told Sky News: “People want us to be generous but also careful,” adding security measures were a “light touch” and “sensible given the attitudes of the Putin regime towards the UK”. He also said that “historically and by nature”, the British people are “very generous, open and welcoming”.

In response to calls for the government to use requisitioned property from Russian oligarchs to house Ukrainians, Gove said the idea is being explored:

“We are saying, ‘You’re sanctioned, you’re supporting Putin, this home is here, you have no right to use or profit from it – and more than that, while you are not using or profiting from it if we can use it in order to help others, let’s do that.”

On the Homes for Ukraine scheme, Enver Solomon, CEO of the Refugee Council, said:

“We are concerned that people from Ukraine are still not being recognised as refugees and being asked to apply for visas when they just need to be guaranteed protection. This programme falls short of enabling any Ukrainian, particularly the most vulnerable such as children who are alone, to seek safety in the UK and access the full support they urgently need.

By establishing a visa route and naming scheme, it will inevitably be restricted to those who are known to people in the UK and be a quite complex lengthy visa application process. A humanitarian crisis requires a speedy and compassionate response, not one that puts bureaucratic hurdles ahead of the immediate needs of people whose lives have been ripped apart.”

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