The problems with the Homes for Ukraine scheme

Critics have raised concerns over the government’s eventual solution to the refugee crisis 

Ukrainians fleeing the war have crossed into Poland 
(Image credit: Omar Marques/Getty Images)

“Better late than never,” said John Ashmore on CapX. After taking “pelters from all sides” for its “grudging” response to the Ukrainian refugee crisis, the Government finally unveiled a plan this week to house people fleeing Russia’s war.

Under a scheme dubbed “Homes for Ukraine”, Ukrainians who have a sponsor in the UK can immediately apply for a visa; others will later be matched to British residents who have registered their interest in hosting a refugee. Would-be hosts will be vetted, and identity checks completed on refugees to allay security concerns. As a “thank you” from the Government, households that take someone in will receive £350 a month; and local authorities will get £10,500 extra funding per refugee for services such as mental health support and education.

There is no cap on numbers – and within two days of the scheme’s launch, 122,000 people had already offered help, said Emma Yeomans in The Times. Among the first to be housed were Niyara Mamontova and her seven-year-old daughter Eleanora who, after fleeing Kharkiv and asking for help on Facebook, were sponsored by a family in Hampshire. “It was amazing,” said Mamontova of her online appeal. “So many people were there to help.”

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The generosity shown by the British people stands in stark contrast to the “shameful” nature of their government’s early response to this crisis, said Ian Birrell in The i Paper. Three million people have been made refugees by Putin’s atrocities in just three weeks. Yet while other European countries immediately went to great lengths to help, the UK resorted to “bureaucratic trickery” to evade responsibility. “The Government demanded biometric tests, documents, visas and visits to application centres that turned out not to be open” – anything, it seemed, to “tangle up” applications from people fleeing Vladimir Putin’s bombs. The Government’s hardhearted and inept response was badly out of step with the public mood, said The Economist. “Incredulous Tory backbenchers called [it] ‘robotic’, but that is unfair on robots, which are at least efficient.”

Even the Government’s eventual solution isn’t problem-free said, Emily Carver on Conservative Home. Critics have raised concerns over the strength of safety checks on prospective hosts, and asked what happens at the end of the six months. However, it could yet prove a “pretty good balance” between a “completely open-door policy that relies entirely on the state, and one that pulls up the drawbridge”. Either way, this should be the crisis that “jolts the Home Office into a better way of handling asylum”, said Fraser Nelson in The Daily Telegraph.

For too long, ministers have tried to deter asylum seekers from coming to Britain by housing them in “decaying” hotels at the taxpayers’ expense, and forbidding them from working while their claims are considered – a process that can take months or even years. But as the Channel migrant crisis shows, that “deterrent” isn’t working. And with 1.3 million vacancies in the economy, would it really be so bad to let more refugees work when they get here?

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