The government has confirmed that there will be no limit to the number of Ukrainian refugees who can live with UK host families under it’s new ‘Homes for Ukraine’ visa scheme.
Health Secretary Sajid Javid this morning told BBC breakfast that there would be “no cap” on the number of people who can be supported under the scheme. It is hoped that tens of thousands of Ukrainians displaced by the Russian invasion will be able to benefit from the scheme. As of 14th March, only two and a half weeks into the war, it is estimated that over 2.5 million refugees have fled Ukraine.
What is ‘Homes for Ukraine’?
Under the scheme, people in the UK will be able to host a family or individual to stay with them rent-free, or in another property for a minimum of six months. As a “thank you”, refugees will receive £350 per month, and the refugees will be allowed to stay in the UK “for at least three years.”
While in the UK, refugees will have access to public services including the NHS, and children will be able to attend local schools. Given the increased demand that could be placed on public services in localities across the UK, local authorities will receive £10,500 in extra funding per refugee for support services, with more given where children are of school age.
Asked if he would participate in the scheme himself, and host a Ukrainian refugee, Mr Javid said that it was something that he and his wife were “starting to have a conversation” about. Following further details that are to be announced later today, the website for the scheme will go live and UK residents will be able to apply to host refugees.
Does the Scheme Go Far Enough?
The announcement of the scheme has come on the heels of widespread criticism of the government’s response over Ukrainian refugees. Following the perceived inaction of the Home Office on the issue, Conservative MP Sir Roger Gale has called for Home Secretary Priti Patel to resign.
The UK has so far granted 3000 visas to Ukrainian refugees under its first scheme since the war broke out, wherein Ukrainians with immediate or extended family in the UK could apply for a visa to join them. However, few if any were satisfied with this. It is hard for instance to ignore the fact that the UK’s scheme retains visa requirements, while all EU countries had waived such requirements in the short term.
While greater access for refugees is certainly an improvement, there remain many problems. Chief Executive of the Refugee Council, Enver Solomon described the scheme as:
“Effectively a managed migration route, which is not suitable to use to respond to a humanitarian crisis… if it’s going to work, it needs to be delivered with all the right resource and all the necessary entitlements for Ukrainians so they’re able to get all the healthcare they need, access housing benefit… this conflict doesn’t look like it’s going to end quickly. There needs to be a clear pathway to longer-term accommodations.”