Government scheme ‘must have safeguards to protect Ukraine refugees’

One organisation has warned that modern slavery offenders could try to take advantage of the new scheme which will see households paid £350 a month.

14 March 2022

The British public has shown “an enormous amount of goodwill” to open their homes to refugees, but the Government must ensure the right safeguards are in place to protect everyone involved, organisations have said.

People collating names of those who want to host people fleeing Ukraine described the “absolutely incredible” response within the UK.

But those helping with charitable efforts have insisted the right checks must be carried out to ensure such a vulnerable group are kept safe, with one organisation warning that modern slavery offenders could try to take advantage.

Details of the Government’s scheme, which will see households paid £350 a month for putting up refugees for a minimum of six months, are due to be set out by Levelling Up Secretary Michael Gove on Monday.

Paul Anticoni, chief executive of World Jewish Relief, said the protection of those who have had to leave their homes – many of whom are women and children – “has to be a priority for any government or agencies that are involved in accommodation”.

He told the PA news agency: “I think the nature of this is going to be, it will only work if there is a sort of partnership dynamic between hosts, local authorities, supporting agencies and other volunteer organisations.”

Describing the response of the public in offering to host refugees as “absolutely incredible”, he added that safeguards are needed especially due to the trauma endured by refugees.

He said: “Opening your doors to somebody is a brilliant thing to do but making sure then that the right support is provided to those who do want to come is just as important.”

Rabbi Jonathan Romain said he welcomed the Government “getting their act together” but said detail on how the scheme will operate is needed.

He has been contacted by more than 900 people offering rooms for refugees coming to the UK, and has been collating details and speaking with the Home Office.

He told PA: “The principle is great, but the potential for chaos or abuse is very large and therefore it needs to be a really sort of tight scheme, both for the sake of the protection of the refugees and the protection of the potential hosts.”

He said he is “hopeful” the scheme will be a success “because there’s an enormous amount of goodwill”.

He added: “There’s a real contrast between the brutality of the invasion and the compassion of people in Britain, who are here wanting to make a difference, wanting to help in some way and they’re desperate to help because they see this atrocious event and what they really want to do is to stop the war.

“That’s not in our power, but we can try and help some of the individuals or families caught up in it. So there’s a real sort of, I was going to say a pool of willingness, it’s actually a lake, a gigantic lake of willingness, to help in some way. And we need the Government really to provide the wherewithal.”

Lauren Agnew, human trafficking policy expert at Christian charity CARE, warned “red flags” around the potential for modern slavery crimes must not be missed while the “well-motivated” scheme is in place.

She said: “Recent statistics from the National Crime Agency estimate there are at least 6,000-8,000 modern slavery offenders in the UK. We can be certain that some of this number will be seeing the Homes for Ukraine scheme as an opportunity to turn a profit at the expense of vulnerable individuals seeking refuge in the UK.

“Setting refugees up in homes around the UK is not the end of the story. There must be follow-up checks to ensure these individuals are not being exploited. We must remember that refugees are extremely vulnerable. They must not be allowed to fall off the radar.

“We urge the Government to put rigorous safeguarding measures in place to ensure, one, that homes and other locations offered to refugees are indeed safe, and two, that the welfare of refugees is ensured for as long as they need to take refuge in the UK.”

More from Perspective

Get a free copy of our print edition


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Fill out this field
Fill out this field
Please enter a valid email address.
You need to agree with the terms to proceed

Your email address will not be published. The views expressed in the comments below are not those of Perspective. We encourage healthy debate, but racist, misogynistic, homophobic and other types of hateful comments will not be published.