Media reveals major flaws in UK housing plan for Ukrainian refugees
Hundreds of Ukrainians have reportedly been matched with “unsuitable” sponsors, while others can’t get visas
The UK government has reportedly been forced to rehome hundreds of Ukrainian refugees after their hosts in Britain turned out to be “unsuitable.”
The Observer broke the news on Sunday, citing sources linked to the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC).
According to the head of the DLUHC, Michael Gove, both Ukrainians and their sponsors are subject to preliminary security checks. However, according to The Observer’s sources, the government has already let down 600 refugees who arrived to the UK to discover that “the people they have come to stay with have been found to be unsuitable.”
“These 600 Ukrainian refugees had been granted visas, but their sponsors were found to be unsuitable either because they had a criminal record or for some other reason,” one of the sources said.
The situation has apparently not surprised charities, some of which raised concerns over the new scheme in the very first days after it was established. In a letter to Gove in March, 16 refugee and anti-trafficking organizations warned of the dangers which the program poses for vulnerable women and children who arrive from the conflict-torn country.
“We are concerned that issues with the scheme means that it risks being a Tinder for sex traffickers. We are already aware of people with illegal motives who are advertising on social media,” said Louise Calvey, head of safeguarding with Refugee Action, a charity which was among the letter’s signatories.
As new data emerges about the system’s flaws, the charities accused the government of having a “reckless” and “unregulated” approach to protecting refugees.
Security issues, however, have not been the only cause for concern in relation to the Homes for Ukraine scheme. While some Ukrainians are suffering because they were matched with “unsuitable” sponsors, some responsible sponsors have criticized the UK authorities for delays in processing applications. Sky News interviewed several British sponsors who had prepared for their guests’ arrival weeks ago but are still waiting for the Home Office to issue the Ukrainians with visas. As sponsored refugees remain stuck in Poland and have reportedly run out of money, British hosts are covering their accommodation and living costs out of their own pockets, and feel like they’ve been “stitched up by the government.”
The UK government launched the Homes for Ukraine scheme in March following Russia’s offensive in the country. It allows British sponsors “to nominate a named Ukrainian or a named Ukrainian family to stay with them in their home or in a separate property.” The participants are required to provide homes or spare rooms rent-free for as long as they can, with a minimum stay of six months. In return, they receive £350 ($432) per month.
The Home Office insists that it is doing all its best to make the scheme as effective as possible.
“So far, more than 95,000 visas have been granted by the Home Office, with over 37,000 Ukrainians arriving safely in the UK, and thanks to changes made to streamline the service, we are now processing thousands of visas a day,” a ministry spokesman told Sky News.
Since the launch of Russia’s military attack on its neighboring country on February 24, more than 5.8 million refugees have fled Ukraine, with more than half of them arriving in Poland, according to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees. Roughly 7.7 million Ukrainians have been internally displaced.
These numbers represent Europe’s largest refugee crisis since World War II and one of the largest global refugee crises of the 21st century.