More than 7,000 people offer room or property to Ukrainians fleeing the war

Around 300 Ukrainians have so far been matched to households that have been offered through the Homes for Ukraine scheme.

01 April 2022

More than 7,000 people in Northern Ireland have expressed an interest in housing Ukrainians fleeing the war, senior Stormont officials have said.

Around 300 Ukrainians have so far been matched to households that have been offered through the Homes for Ukraine scheme.

Their visas are being processed by the Home Office.

The scheme allows individuals, charities, community groups and businesses to bring people escaping the war to safety – even if they have no ties to the UK.

Anyone who has offered a room or property has to find and match with a Ukrainian, usually through social media, church groups or volunteer groups.

Those with a room or home available for at least six months can offer it to a Ukrainian individual or a family, although those offering to host will be vetted and Ukrainian applicants will undergo security checks.

From Monday, officials will start to visit the homes and properties of those put forward to ensure they are suitable.

Some 40 visas have been issued to Ukrainians to date.

Around several hundred Ukrainians have also arrived in Northern Ireland to live with family members settled in the region, senior Stormont officials also said.

There are around 600 indigenous Ukrainians living in Northern Ireland.

Senior officials from the Executive Office described a “hugely challenging logistical” operation due to the large number of people fleeing the war.

The number of Ukrainians arriving in Northern Ireland in recent weeks is similar to the number of Syrian refugees arriving in a typical year, it is estimated.

An official said: “It’s been a huge effort with people working around the clock to design and implement the system that’s going to support refugees in the best way possible, to make sure they’re safe, and that there’s arrangements to support them right away through the process.

“This is unlike previous refugee resettlement exercises in the sense that Ukrainians could arrive through a number of different groups, including across the border from the Republic, whereas in previous schemes, they were much more controlled in the sense that we knew when people were going to arrive and the numbers that were coming in.”

Officials said it will be difficult to predict the number of Ukrainians who will settle in Northern Ireland over the coming weeks and months, however the number is expected to grow quickly.

A number of community assistance hubs and drop-in centres will open in Belfast, Craigavon, Newry and Ballymena in the next week, officials added.

These centres will help people with information on health issues, benefits, completing applications, getting work, and immigration issues.

They will have Ukrainian and Russian translators.

Work is under way with local organisations, voluntary sectors and councils to help refugees settle in Northern Ireland, officials said.

This will include experts who work with refugees.

Officials have also warned about the dangers refugees face when fleeing a war, saying they are particularly vulnerable to exploitation and modern slavery.

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