Dozens of visas issued for refugees to stay in Midlothian – as new survey finds more support needed for hosts

Dozens of visas have been issued for Ukrainians to stay in Midlothian – but a new survey reveals hosts need Government support to continue as costs soar.
Passengers line up for passport control in the UK Border area of Terminal 2 of Heathrow Airport. PA.Passengers line up for passport control in the UK Border area of Terminal 2 of Heathrow Airport. PA.
Passengers line up for passport control in the UK Border area of Terminal 2 of Heathrow Airport. PA.

Since March, Ukrainians fleeing the Russian invasion have been able to apply for a visa to stay in the UK under the Ukraine Sponsorship Scheme.

The scheme, also known as "Homes for Ukraine", allows individuals to host refugees for a minimum of six months.

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As of August 2, 60 visas had been issued for refugees staying with hosts in Midlothian – 46 of which had arrived in the UK. The official number of visas issued does not reflect the true number of Ukrainians heading to the area, with thousands of visas granted across the country sponsored directly by the Scottish Government.

A new survey has suggested that hosts need more financial help from the Government amid the cost-of-living crisis, which has rapidly pushed up the price of food, energy and fuel.

Across the UK, more than 17,000 sponsors responded to the questionnaire between July 7 and July 14, with more than 70 per cent saying the crisis has impacted their ability to provide support. Among those who said they were only planning on hosting for six months, or were not sure, 40 per cent said an increase in the £350 monthly payments they receive would encourage them to provide accommodation longer term.

While data is not yet available for Scotland, separate figures show across England more than 1,000 Ukrainian households have been made homeless or put at risk of homelessness.

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Of those provided with a homelessness duty by their local council, around a quarter had subsequently avoided or been taken out of homelessness.

The Refugee Council, a charity which advocates for those fleeing conflict, said that support and advice was needed to stop arrangements from breaking down and refugees becoming homeless.

The charity's CEO, Enver Solomon, added the cost-of-living crisis was an "additional burden" to those who have already faced significant hardship.

The survey shows that many hosts supported their guests beyond providing accommodation – and have found the experience to be a positive one.

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More than nine in 10 hosts have helped set up services for those staying with them, and 58% say they have helped with sorting school and university places.

Another 37 per cent say they would consider hosting people fleeing from foreign conflicts again.

Refugees Minister Richard Harrington said the survey results were "testament to the goodwill the British public has shown the people of Ukraine".

He stressed that hosts will continue to receive monthly “thank you” payments for up to 12 months to help with the costs of opening up their home.

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“We initially asked sponsors to host for a minimum of six months and we are working closely with councils to ensure Ukrainians have a safe place to live if they decide to move on," he added.