Michael Gove addresses impact of Ukraine war on Brits
The “Homes for Ukraine” scheme will be unveiled by Communities Secretary Michael Gove today (Sunday) in a bid to help the thousands of families fleeing Putin’s attack on their country. A website for sponsors to register will go online tomorrow, allowing them to provide homes and rooms for victims of Russian terror.
Mr Gove said: “The crisis in Ukraine has sent shock waves across the world as hundreds of thousands of innocent people have been forced to flee their homes, leaving everything they know and love behind.
“The UK stands behind Ukraine in their darkest hour and the British public understand the need to get as many people to safety as quickly as we can.
“I urge people across the country to join the national effort and offer support to our Ukrainian friends. Together we can give a safe home to those who so desperately need it.”
It comes as criticism of the Government continues to grow over the failure to provide enough support for Ukrainian refugees.
While Boris Johnson has been highly praised for his leadership in bringing Europe, the G7 and NATO together in imposing sanctions on Russia and providing food, medical and military aid to Ukraine there have been concerns over the slow response to help refugees.
A poll in the Ukraine put Mr Johnson as the most popular western leader but a UK poll by Opinium showed that 52 percent do not think enough has been done to provide safe places to stay for those fleeing war.
As well as providing air defence and other hitech weapons and specialist military training, the UK Government has also pumped hundreds of millions into the Ukrainian economy.
Mr Johnson and Foreign Secretary Liz Truss have also been at the forefront of making the case for sanctions against reluctance from some EU countries.
There have been concerns over the slow response to help refugees
They have also found agreement on reducing the amount of oil and gas purchased from Russia.
Conservative MP David Simmonds, the co-chairman of the all-party parliamentary group on refugees, stressed the importance of ensuring the right resources are in place to welcome people fleeing the conflict.
He said: “As was the case with Syrian and Afghan refugees the people of the UK are keen to help people facing appalling risks. We need to ensure that receiving communities are resourced to support them properly as they settle into life in the UK.”
Enver Solomon, chief executive of the Refugee Council, said: “In the wake of the situation in Ukraine we have launched an emergency appeal that will support refugees, including those fleeing Ukraine, who have had their lives and families torn apart by war. We must be ready to help people recover from the trauma of war and to rebuild their lives here in the UK.
“The conflict in Ukraine will add to the record number of people displaced by conflict, and we expect to see thousands of refugees arriving in the UK over the coming months in desperate need of a warm welcome and expert support.”
The charity Refugees at Home connects people with a spare room in their home and refugees and asylum seekers in need of somewhere to stay. It has so far placed more than 2,600 people for nearly 200,000 nights.
Migration Watch UK, which usually campaigns against allowing in migrants, added its voice to those calling on the Government to do more to help refugees.
In the wake of the situation in Ukraine we have launched an emergency appeal that will support refugees
Chairman Alp Mehmet said: “It’s good that the government seems finally to be getting its act together with helping those fleeing Putin’s barbaric onslaught. If there was ever a time when our system of refugee protection needed to be working properly, this is it.”
The new bespoke Homes for Ukraine scheme will allow individuals, charities, community groups and businesses in the UK to bring Ukrainians to safety – including those with no family ties to the UK.
The scheme is uncapped and will allow a sponsor in the UK to nominate a named Ukrainian or a named Ukrainian family to stay with them in their home, or will allow them to offer a separate property. Individuals are expected to be able to apply online for the scheme at the end of next week.
It will make it the most generous scheme among western countries for Ukrainian refugees.
Sponsors will be asked to provide homes or a spare room rent-free for as long as they are able, with a minimum stay of six months.
As a “thank you” for putting a roof over the heads of those fleeing war, sponsoring individuals will receive £350 per month.
Mrl Gove will today urge individuals and organisations across the country to step forward with offers of help.
He will also call on landlords, businesses, community groups and other organisations to offer rooms and other appropriate accommodation to Ukrainians.
Ukrainians who have sponsors will be granted three years leave to remain in the UK, with entitlement to work and access public services.
Those offering accommodation will be vetted and Ukrainian applicants will undergo security checks.
This comes on top of existing action the UK government has taken to support those suffering as a result of the crisis in Ukraine. We have already opened our Ukraine Family Scheme allowing extended family members to enter the UK and from Tuesday Ukrainians with valid Ukrainian passports who are eligible can do their application online and will not need to go to a Visa Application Centre.
We are also providing £400million in aid to Ukraine and neighbouring countries.
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Friends for life
WHEN 25-year-old Syrian Ahmad Al-Rashid faced homelessness days after being granted refugee status in Britain, he found “friends for life” in two complete strangers who took him into their home, writes Berny Torre.
Seven years on, he told of how he came to stay with Nina Kaye and Timothy Nathan at their home in Epsom, Surrey, despite them having no previous connection to his country.
He said the kind-hearted couple had offered him their spare room just a few hours after he posted a desperate plea for help on Facebook.
Ahmad who escaped Aleppo in 2013, went to stay with the couple in November 2015 where he learned that Nina’s mother was herself a Ukrainian refugee who had fled the Nazis to Britain during World War Two.
Speaking on Radio 2’s Jeremy Vine Show this week, he said: “Soon after I arrived in the UK and was offered refugee status after I fled the conflict in Syria, I was hosted and welcomed by an English family.”
“I went to a landlord, to letting agencies, I didn’t have anything: no paperwork, I didn’t have a credit history, so I was faced with homelessness.
Ahmad who escaped Aleppo in 2013, went to stay with an English couple in November 2015
“And it was through this organisation, Refugees at Home, that I just posted something on Facebook and I got a random message from someone on that group saying ‘would you be happy to come and live with us until you sort out things for yourself’.”
Nina and Timothy had been thinking about downsizing their home after their children had moved out, but instead they realised they could take in a Syrian refugee. Nina and Timothy had just a few months earlier set up Refugees at Home.
Ahmad added: “I was a bit apprehensive at the beginning and I accepted the offer and a few hours later I met Nina and Timothy.
“I thought it was going to be for a few days, it felt so strange to me, I felt a bit apprehensive and I ended up staying over five months and we became the best friends ever since.”
He said they didn’t have a previous connection to Syria but Nina’s mother had “fled from Ukraine during the Nazi invasion and ended up in the UK”.
He said they had “lots of lots of positive interactions” as they learnt about each other’s cultures and politics and confirmed they were still in touch, adding: “We are and as I’ve said, we have created friends for life.”
Britons raise over £150m for refugees
The HEARTBREAKING scenes of refugees fleeing has produced an astonishing response from the British public. Those of us working in the UK charity sector have been moved by the extraordinary outpouring of public concern, says Patrick Watt, interim CEO for Christian Aid.
More than £150million has been raised so far in the Disasters Emergency Committee appeal – the biggest since the Boxing Day tsunami in 2004. The money is being put to immediate use to save lives. Charities like Christian Aid support partner organisations to distribute food supplies and other essentials to people on the border.
The scale of this humanitarian disaster with more than two million refugees on the move has presented us with an enormous challenge. Roads are often blocked with debris from explosions, making communications difficult.
Our priority is to work with our partner on the ground. Hungarian Inter Church Aid (HIA) knows the territory and the people, so that’s the most effective and safest way of getting help to people who need it most. So far HIA has sent canned food, flour, sugar, oil, rice, pasta, biscuits, long-life milk, tea and hygiene products to Ukraine. It has scaled up a field office in Beregovo to support tens of thousands of refugees at the border area. Tents, mobile toilets and blankets have been provided for people waiting in lines that are miles long.
One of the many people they have helped is Jacob, a Nigerian national from Kharkiv. When HIA met him, he was hugging his crying wife Christina, and comforting his one-year-old baby who became sick during the 48-hour trip as they fled more than 600 miles.
Our country has a long history of supporting those fleeing conflict, says Yvette Cooper
Some projections say more than 7.5 million Ukrainians will be forced from their homes.
That’s why we’re asking Sunday Express readers to continue donating if you can.
In the short term, £20 can provide emergency food for one person for one month. Once peace is established, the money will help Ukrainians rebuild their lives.
Christian Aid was founded in 1945 by British and Irish churches, to help refugees after the Second World War. Nearly 80 years later, with your help, we can work with other members of the DEC to do the same for the people of Ukraine.
The British people want to do our bit to help Ukraine in its hour of need, says Yvette Cooper
Delays may prove costly
TO SEE pregnant women and newborn babies targeted by Russian shelling was horrifying, says Yvette Cooper, Shadow Home Secretary.
We’ve all been deeply shocked by the cruelty of Putin’s assault on Ukraine and on innocent civilians forced to flee for their lives.
People across Britain rightly want us to do our bit to support Ukrainians bravely facing down Russian aggression and helping those who need sanctuary.
Faced with the unthinkable of war in Europe again, faith groups, communities and families are already gathering donations both to send to refugees across Europe and to welcome Ukrainians here.
Our country has a long history of supporting those fleeing conflict. The kindertransport helped thousands of Jewish children escape the Nazis. We welcomed Bosnian refugees fleeing genocide in the Balkans. Those escaping China’s crackdown in Hong Kong have been given a path to safety.
So far the Home Office Ukrainian Family Scheme has been slow and shambolic, sending desperate people from pillar to post instead of quickly welcoming them to join family here.
Ministers have promised a new humanitarian route so we can help others but we cannot afford more long delays. The British people want to do our bit to help Ukraine in its hour of need.
Prof Richard Overy
History will judge us…
THE Government’s failure to respond quickly or generously to the refugee crisis in Ukraine has been widely condemned as images of suffering pile onto our screens, says Prof Richard Overy, historian and author.
Last week 128 professional historians signed an open letter to No 10 calling for easier entry for refugees.
It is not often that historians agree on something, but on this issue we are united.
The refugee crisis matters because it comes as Europe’s history is once again being violently re-written after almost 80 years of peace.
If Britain is not going to confront Russia militarily, it should at least offer sanctuary to those driven from destroyed homes and lives.
Our letter demands a generous and open welcome for refugees that matches the decent, democratic values that define modern Britain.
History will judge how the Government rises to the challenges of this new and dangerous conflict.