Charity slams ‘gimmick’ scheme saying no Ukrainians they are helping have been given sponsor visas
A charity supporting families coming to the UK from Ukraine said no visas have been granted to those it is helping, almost two weeks on from the Government scheme’s launch.
The Homes for Ukraine scheme opened on March 14, with the aim of allowing individuals, charities, community groups and businesses to bring Ukrainians – including those with no family ties to the UK – to safety.
But the organisation Positive Action in Housing said the scheme has left those seeking refuge “to turn in desperation to strangers on social media for sponsors”, and warned of the danger posed by potential human traffickers.
The charity said that in the past week alone it has been helping 483 Ukrainian families, young people and unaccompanied minors who are asking for assistance to find a sponsor who will also shelter them.
Robina Qureshi (pictured), director of the charity – which runs Room for Refugees, the UK’s longest-running refugee hosting programme which has been in place since 2002 – said the forms involved in the Ukrainian scheme are “tortuous and confusing – with no guideline”.
She said: “The Government made a fanfare of its Homes for Ukraine Community sponsorship programme. Michael Gove told Parliament on March 14 that there was no limit on the numbers coming in.
“Yet, none of the families we are supporting have yet got a visa to travel under the Community Sponsorship scheme and are still waiting.”
Ms Qureshi said they had seen examples of people putting themselves at further risk, such is their desperation as they endure long waits to find out if they can get a visa.
She said: “Unaccompanied minors, young women, women with young children, have told us they met someone on social media who offered to be a sponsor under Homes for Ukraine.
“A Ukrainian mother said she was sending her teenage sons, one of whom is autistic, alone to make the journey to the UK from Ukraine.
“Another woman told us that she would leave Kharkiv now if the UK government offered a visa, but she is waiting in her home terrified.
“Refugees are turning to wholly unsafe methods of getting here, meeting people in Facebook groups, on social media. And this Government is responsible for giving people false hope and putting them further in the way of danger.”
She warned that human traffickers “thrive on refugee conflicts and displacements anytime there are vulnerable populations on the move”, labelling the scheme a “gimmick” which she said “has resulted in obvious and dangerous breaches of basic safeguarding on an industrial scale – all instigated by one Government Department”.
She repeated the charity’s call for visa restrictions to be waived “so that war refugees have the confidence to travel, and allow NGOs and community organisations to assess people and place them in safe shelter”.
On Saturday, Government minister Kit Maltouse said refugees have arrived in the UK through the Homes For Ukraine scheme, but that the number will not be published until “next week”.
Separately, the Government has a Ukraine Family Scheme which is for people seeking to join relatives or extend their stay in the UK.
A Government spokesperson said: “No visa is issued by the Home Office until checks have been completed on the Ukrainian applicant as well as on every adult in a sponsor’s household. Local authorities will then run DBS (Disclosure and Barring Service) checks on sponsors, with enhanced DBS with barred list checks for those housing families with children or vulnerable adults.
“Under the Homes for Ukraine scheme, Ukrainians will be guaranteed free access to NHS healthcare, including mental health care. They will also be able to work and receive benefits. The Government has also ensured that local authorities have appropriate levels of funding to support new arrivals.”
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