In the wake of Putin’s brutal invasion of Ukraine, the UN has stated that at least 12 million Ukrainians have been forced to flee their homes. The UK has since welcomed over 100,000 Ukrainians, albeit somewhat reluctantly.
The UK’s initial incentive to offer refuge only to Ukrainians with a relative permanently residing in the UK received enough criticism for the UK to supplement this ‘family visa’ scheme with the more inclusive ‘Homes for Ukraine’ initiative.
The ‘Homes for Ukraine’ scheme was launched to allow Ukrainians without family residing in the UK to seek sanctuary. They are sponsored by volunteer hosts, who offer spare bedrooms or apartments rent-free, for a minimum of six months. Hosts are paid £350 a month to cover additional expenses incurred by their generosity.
However, criticisms of the scheme were voiced from hosting participants, stating the time taken to approve visa applications is too extensive. The scheme also remains dependant on UK volunteers, which are not in everlasting supply, minimising the number of Ukrainians that are able to find refuge in the UK.
Other issues faced by hosts partaking in the scheme is the pressure of the increasing number of Ukrainian refugees seeking residence. Those who are already settling into the UK feel obligated to bring their family members to safety.
The primary issue with the ‘Homes for Ukraine’ scheme is only just coming to light. Hosting families are only obligated to accommodate refugees for a period of six months. With the scheme beginning in March, we are fast approaching the end of the six-month obligatory period - so where will the refugees go?
Many hosts are keen to continue hosting their Ukrainian refugees, but other hosts, for various reasons, are unable to do so. One such host is moving house to be closer to an ill family member but does not want to leave her guests with no alternative housing.
One government proposed alternative suggests relocating Ukrainians to a new host family. This option uproots settled Ukrainians, who likely have found employment, schooling, and a place within the community.
But bumping Ukrainians in the extensive council-housing queue seems an unfair option, particularly to people who have been on its waiting list for over a year.
All areas of the UK government must now co-operate to find suitable alternative housing for all Ukrainian refugees, to ensure that each person has a roof over their head for the coming winter months.
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