Britons keen to host Ukrainian refugees ‘must do so for at least six months’

Ministers hope most offers through the new sponsorship scheme will come from accommodation providers, according to reports.

12 March 2022

Britons keen to house Ukrainian refugees under the Government’s new sponsorship scheme will need to agree to do so for at least six months, reports suggest.

The current visa route for people fleeing the war in Ukraine is restricted to family members of people settled in the UK.

Another promised route, allowing individuals and companies to sponsor Ukrainians with no ties to the UK to come to the country, is expected to be launched on Monday.

Poland Russia Ukraine War
Ukrainian refugees (Visar Kryeziu/AP)

According to the Times, the Government has decided people who want to offer a home to those fleeing the war under the new scheme will need to commit to a six-month contract.

The newspaper cited a Government source as saying: “It’s about making sure we have secure offers.

“Unfortunately it’s going to need to be a long-term scheme as it doesn’t look like they’ll be going home any time soon.”

The Times said ministers hope the bulk of offers to the sponsorship scheme will come from accommodation providers such as hotels, B&Bs and landlords, to bring in as many people as possible.

(PA Graphics)

Hosts and their properties will need to pass safeguarding checks, after which they will be matched with Ukrainian refugees in Poland by Home Office officials, it said.

The Times said Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer would take in a Ukrainian refugee himself.

“If necessary (I would), as many people would… I think we’re a very welcoming nation,” he told the newspaper.

It comes after the Government was reported to have come under fire from French President Emmanuel Macron for its policy on Ukrainian refugees.

Johnson and Macron
Boris Johnson with Emmanuel Macron (Alastair Grant/PA)

According to the Guardian, at the end of an EU summit in Versailles on Friday, Mr Macron said insisting visa applications to the UK were made in person in Brussels and Paris had exacerbated circumstances for those fleeing the war.

The Home Office pointed to previous comments by Home Secretary Priti Patel, who said: “We are now making the process quicker and simpler by removing the need to physically visit visa application centres for many of those who are making the perilous journey across Europe.”

On Thursday, she announced that from Tuesday people will be able to apply online for a visa and will no longer have to go to a processing centre to give their biometrics.

Nearly 2.6 million people are thought to have fled Ukraine since Russia’s invasion on February 24, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) data portal.

Tony Stein, chief executive of Healthcare Management Solutions, suggested on Saturday morning that Ukrainian people fleeing the war could find jobs and a place to live through the UK care sector.

Asked if his business might be interested in taking part in the Government’s new sponsorship scheme for refugees, he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “Absolutely. I mean, we have a national shortage in the care sector of people. We have many vacancies up and down the country.

“A lot of operators have job-related accommodation. And there must be a way, I think, of putting the two things together and helping some of the refugees coming over, who may well have the skills that we’re looking for… they may be nurses or people who’ve cared before who would be perfectly suited to roles in this country.

(PA Graphics)

“But I think it’s not a simple thing to do. You know, clearly there are some issues that we need to address – so if people are coming over with children, for example… the accommodation may not be suited for families, and indeed local authorities might not allow us to house families in some of that accommodation.

“The start point is: have we got accommodation, do we have vacancies? Yes we do. We just now need to work together with local authorities and Government to find out how we can do this.”

Home Office minister Baroness Williams of Trafford told peers 1,305 visas for Ukrainian refugees had been issued as of Thursday morning, adding: “Those figures are going up rapidly and that is a good thing.”

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