Ukraine-Russia: Homes for Ukraine is a 'gimmick', says refugee charity founder
It comes as the UK Government announced Britons offering homes to Ukrainian refugees through a new humanitarian route will receive a “thank you” payment of £350 per month for a minimum of six months.
The Homes for Ukraine scheme, to be rolled out this week, will allow individuals, charities, community groups and businesses to bring people fleeing the war to safety – even if they have no ties to the UK.
Nicola Sturgeon said Scotland “stands ready” to take 3,000 Ukrainian refugees immediately as she pledged the country could be a “super sponsor” for those fleeing the war.
The First Minister said that could help people looking to escape Ukraine to get here quickly amid concerns the sponsorship scheme being organised by the UK Government could be “slow and cumbersome”.
The UK has so far granted 3,000 visas to Ukrainians fleeing the conflict in their homeland, Michael Gove confirmed on Sunday morning.
Robina Qureshi, director of Glasgow-based refugee homelessness charity Positive Action in Housing, labelled the UK Government scheme a “gimmick” and a “distraction”.
She said only lifting visa restrictions would prevent Ukrainian refugees being forced to take boats, often run by human traffickers, to reach the UK.
Ms Qureshi said: “How will UK families be able to open their homes to Ukrainians fleeing war when the UK itself has not lifted visa restrictions on refugees entering the country? The problem is not a lack of hosts. There are skilled and experienced hosting networks up and down the country with thousands of hosts.
“A trickle of people may come through, based on who they know. Britain is not planning on taking its fair share of refugees, even though there is public support for taking in Ukrainian refugees.
“The number of houses is not the problem and this is a gimmick. [It’s] just another distraction – just like the Syrian and Afghan crises – from the fact that the UK is still the only country in Europe that hasn’t lifted visa restrictions and there are still no safe routes here for Ukrainian war refugees.”
The UK Government said a website where people can register their interest in taking part in the scheme will open on Monday, which will see people open their homes to refugees, or alternatively offer them a separate property to stay in.
All those offering accommodation will be vetted, while Ukrainians coming to the UK under the scheme will undergo security checks.
The SNP in Westminster also criticised the scheme, with MP Stuart McDonald labelling it “nowhere near enough”.
He said: “Responding to a refugee crisis requires a quick and effective response, but those looking to seek refuge in the UK will still have to go through the lengthy and time-consuming visa and matching process. Michael Gove admitted that it is still likely to be another two weeks before people can reach our shores.
“The UK is an outlier in this. Countries across Europe, including Ireland, are waiving visas for Ukrainians and the Home Office should follow suit – they should put people first and worry about the paperwork later.”