How You Can House A Ukrainian Refugee Fleeing Russia's Invasion

This is how the government's Homes for Ukraine programme works.
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Refugees from Mykolaiv and nearby regions arrive during their evacuation at the railway station in Odessa, Ukraine.
Refugees from Mykolaiv and nearby regions arrive during their evacuation at the railway station in Odessa, Ukraine.
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The government’s new Homes for Ukraine refugee programme launched this month – this is how it works.

The scheme will enable Brits to offer a spare room in their home to someone fleeing Russia’s invasion.

People can register their interest on a new government website. Those offering homes will be vetted and Ukrainian applicants will undergo security checks.

Anyone who houses someone will have to do so for a minimum of six months and will receive a “thank you” payment of £350 per month.

Ukrainians welcomed under the programme will be eligible to work, access state benefits and public services for three years.

Charities, businesses and community groups will also be allowed to submit an application to house people.

Michael Gove, who is in charge of the scheme, has said he expects “tens of thousands” of refugees to be allowed in via this and other routes.

Within 24 hours of launching the new site, 100,000 people in the UK signed up to help the refugees.

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How else can Ukrainians seek refuge in the UK?

Some Ukrainians can also seek safety in the UK via a route other than the new Homes for Ukraine scheme.

To come to the UK, Ukrainians require a visa. This is in sharp contrast to EU nations, which are letting refugees in for up to three years without a visa.

Boris Johnson and Priti Patel have said security concerns mean they will not allow visa-free entry into the UK.

But under intense pressure, including from Tory MPs, the Home Office did relax the rules slightly just a week before it was launched.

Patel announced that Ukrainians would be able to bypass one of the more complex parts of the application process on their journey to the UK.

What is the new online application rule?

Ukrainian refugees with passports will be able to apply for a family visa entry online from March 15.

They still have to provide biometric details (facial scan and fingerprint) but only once they touch down in the UK.

Patel said: “This will mean that visa application centres across Europe can focus their efforts on helping Ukrainians without passports.”

They won’t have to show English language capabilities or proof of income.

But...

Applicants will still have to create an online account on the Home Office website and fill out a detailed form.

Refugees also have to wait an indefinite amount of time in another country until their application is approved.

Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper did criticise the programme when it launched: “I have to say to the home secretary: why does it always take being hauled in the House of Commons to make basic changes to help vulnerable people who are fleeing from Ukraine?”

Tory MP Robert Jenrick also criticised the scheme after he took in a Ukrainian family this month when speaking to the Daily Telegraph’s Chopper’s Politics podcast.

He said the refugees had a “traumatic” journey to the UK, and that the scheme was “overly bureaucratic”.

Discussing the visa process, he said: “Truth be told, it has been a bumpy start to the scheme. It’s taken too long to get visas, for us it took about three weeks to get all three visas approved.

“And so there are people who are frustrated, it has tested the patience of sponsors and, more importantly, of the families and individuals themselves.”

However, he did express hope that the government was now moving past “those bumps” – despite the long security checks and delays to the £250 sponsorship scheme.

Former health secretary Matt Hancock who has welcomed seven refugees to his home described the visa process as a “challenge” too.

Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper hit out at Priti Patel over her approach to refugees
Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper hit out at Priti Patel over her approach to refugees
House of Commons - PA Images via Getty Images

What about the new visa application centre?

While Ukrainians with passports will be able to use the online system from March 15, those without still have to go to an in-person centre – and there has been mass confusion over where the UK’s visa application centres even are.

Initially, Patel promised to MPs that a “bespoke” centre was going to be set up in Calais.

The following day, another minister suggested Lille, 70 miles away, might be the new site for a visa centre. However, the Home Office said this centre could only deal with a limited number of cases and would not accept walk-ins.

Now there’s another visa application centre in Arras, 30 miles from Lille. It is not on the free Eurostar route for refugees, but the Home Office is hoping to arrange transport for those without cars, particularly those who are vulnerable.

It is a referral-only centre and appointments can’t be booked online, according to the i.

Can Ukrainians with British relatives come to the UK?

Ukrainians with family in Britain must provide evidence they are related to someone in the UK through various certificates (such as death or birth certificates).

If that certification is not to hand, refugees have to explain why.

They also have to prove a relative lives in the UK.

When the Home Office first announced this scheme (a temporary visa concession veering away from the points based system) on February 27, it meant immediate family members of British nationals.

This included a spouse, civil partner, unmarried partner of couple who live together for at least two years, a parent with a child under 18, a child under 18, an adult relative who needs care due to medical condition.

On March 1, this was expanded to include parents, grandparents, adult children, siblings, and immediate family members.

Now it is available to aunts, uncles, nephews, nieces, cousins and in-laws.

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