Gove offers to end Ukrainian refugee chaos with £350 cash offer for rooms | Refugees

People who open their homes to Ukrainians fleeing the Russian invasion will receive £350 a month under a ‘cash for housing’ scheme, as ministers try to mend the UK’s chaotic response to the crisis.

In a humiliation for Priti Patel, the Home Secretary, who has come under heavy criticism for failing to scrap bureaucratic refugee visa requirements that have been waived by other European countries, fellow Minister Michael Gove announced the plan last night, calling for a “national effort” on behalf of those in desperate need.

Gove, Levels, Housing and Communities Secretary, said: “The crisis in Ukraine has sent shockwaves across the world as hundreds of thousands of innocent people have been forced to flee their homes, leaving everything behind. whom they know and love.”

Under the scheme, Ukrainians who are matched and housed with a British “sponsor” will be granted a three-year residence permit. They will be able to work, claim benefits and access public services during this time.

UK-based sponsors, who will be able to register to host refugees on a website to be launched on Monday, will be asked to provide houses or a spare room for free for as long as they can, with a requirement minimum of six months. Applicants will be screened and Ukrainian applicants will be subject to security checks.

There was some skepticism from refugee experts last night about whether such a system could work.

Enver Solomon, chief executive of the Refugee Council, said the success of the program would depend on the smallest details, such as whether households would receive support to care for inevitably traumatized and vulnerable refugees, the vast majority of whom will be women and children. .

“These people are going to be very traumatized and disoriented and you can’t just put them in people’s homes without any expert support,” he said.

“It’s a bit like asking people to become foster families without having a social worker on site. There needs to be good quality specialist support, otherwise there is a risk of relationship breakdown. In the long term, they will need their own stable accommodation as they may not be able to return to their home country for a few years.

Michael Gove has called for a ‘national effort’ on behalf of those in desperate need. Photography: Anthony Harvey/Rex/Shutterstock

While Boris Johnson, the Prime Minister, has repeatedly claimed the UK is leading the international response to the crisis, his government has been widely criticized for being slow. While Ukrainians faced many hurdles when applying to come to the UK, they were quickly granted permission to enter EU countries for three years without a visa.

It is understood that Johnson grew increasingly frustrated with Patel over the refugee issue.

After opting to become the only country in Europe to introduce a visa regime for refugees, it emerged last Sunday that only 50 visas had been granted in the 10 days since Russia invaded Ukraine. At the same time, the EU had given refuge to 1.4 million refugees.

Patel is also under pressure to explain a series of misleading statements made by her and her officials last week. In one Sun column Patel wrote that she was considering a new route for the refugees, but there was no new route. Patel then revealed that a visa application center had been established in Calais, but that was not the case either. On Wednesday the Interior Ministry said the center was in fact in Lille but would not disclose the location and ultimately it emerged there was no center there either.

Poll Would you offer to take Ukrainian refugees into your own home if asked

Seventeen days after the start of the invasion, it is understood that the Interior Ministry has granted around 1,000 visas – less than 60 per day, as an average of around 150,000 Ukrainians leave their country daily. The latest data from the UN refugee agency reveals that more than 2.5 million refugees have fled. When the Home Office was asked for an update on the numbers, it did not respond.

A previous community sponsorship scheme, primarily aimed at hosting Syrians, has proven to be relatively slow and bureaucratic, with only around 700 people receiving such support since 2015. Early indications are that the new scheme will, however, receive many more offers. .

An Opinium poll for the Observer suggested that nearly one in three Britons might be willing to invite a Ukrainian refugee to live with them. Nine percent said they would definitely, while 20% said maybe.

2.6 million refugees have fled the war in Ukraine

Yegor Lanovenko of the Opora network, which helps Ukrainians get to the UK, said they had started to show interest in the programme.

“We have started registering interest from sponsors and those seeking sponsorship in anticipation of the government announcing details and we have had over 60 expressions of interest in the past 40 hours, although we didn’t even actively advertise it.”

Government sources have said the £350-a-month payment will not increase if the sponsor takes on more than one person or family. Ministers say they are also working to enable communities, the voluntary sector and organizations such as charities and religious groups to sponsor groups of Ukrainians.

The UK’s chaotic approach to the crisis has prompted widespread calls for Patel’s resignation. On Saturday, Liberal Democrat leader Ed Davey became the latest, calling Patel’s response “utterly disgraceful”.

In an apparent admission that the government’s response to refugees has been inadequate, it was announced last week that Richard Harrington would become refugee minister to work in both the Home Office and the Gove leveling department.

the Observer Sources at a meeting on Friday – one of Harrington’s first in his new role – heard the new minister described his sponsorship approach as a step towards ‘privatising’ the UK’s resettlement scheme . The term “didn’t sit well” among many in attendance, the source said.

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