How many Ukrainian refugees could government ministers personally house?

How many Ukrainian refugees could government ministers personally house?
Michael Gove reveals 'Homes for Ukraine' sponsorship scheme

The government has launched its 'Homes for Ukraine' scheme which allows people in the UK to host refugees fleeing the war-torn country who don't have family ties in Britain.

Over 90,000 people signed up in the first day the scheme was opened, meaning these volunteers have confirmed they are willing to host at least one refugee for at least six months and will receive a tax free payment of £350 a month for up to 12 months for doing so.

The scheme came amid criticism that the government had not yet done enough to support refugees. While the EU has temporarily waived visas to allow displaced Ukrainians to enter their respective countries, the UK previously had only committed to allowing those with familiar links to enter the country.

But the new scheme has not been without chastisement either, as people must have a name of someone they wish to host. Labour has called it a "DIY asylum scheme".

Certainly, asking the public to take over the refugee support effort is a big ask, and given that journalists have questioned if those championing the policy will also be taking part in it.

Michael Gove has said he would look into housing a refugee. Asked on the BBC’s Sunday Morning programme he would take in a Ukrainian refugee, Gove said: “Yes.”He added: “I’m exploring what I can do, I know that there are others who have. Without going into my personal circumstances, there are a couple of things I need to sort out - but yes.”

Grant Shapps is also keen to step up. “We’ve spent the past few weeks as a family discussing the devastating situation in Ukraine, and so we intend to apply today to join other UK households in offering our home to provide refuge to Ukrainians until it is safe for them to return to their country,” he said in a message at lunchtime on Monday.

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Meanwhile, Keir Starmer and Matt Hancock have expressed interest in the scheme and Sajid Javid has said he wouldn't rule out housing a refugee.

But what about other ministers? We've had a crack at finding some space for Ukraine's refugees.

Liz Truss and Dominic Raab

File:Chevening.jpg - Wikimedia

The merry pair agreed to share the Chevening House mansion in October 2021 after rowing over which one of them should have access to the Kent house, which is traditionally used by the foreign secretary. It has 115 rooms and 15 bedrooms so could definitely house at least 15 refugees if they have one bedroom each.

Boris Johnson

We'll level with you. We are not quite sure how many bedrooms there are in Downing Street but there are approximately 100 rooms in the building so we'd expect some of them to be free.

Nadhim Zahawi

Zahawi has a property portfolio worth £100m, according to reports. This includes a £20m London townhouse and five residential properties worth at least £17m – three in London, one in Warwickshire and one in Dubai. We wonder if they are full to the brim?

Jacob Rees-Mogg.

Ahhh... Rees-Mogg, the most relatable and down to Earth minister we know. Not. Rees-Mogg resides in a Grade II listed building in Somerset - where his constituency is. In WW1, the historic building was used as a hospital with 57 beds so we wonder if something similar could be done now?

But that is not the only house he owns. In 2018, he bought a £5m home next to parliament. Questioned as to why he wanted to live so close to the action, he told the Mail he snapped up the five-story mansion because:"My Mayfair house has three bedrooms for nine people so reception rooms now have children in them."

Heaven forbid.

Rishi Sunak

Rishi Sunak (HM Treasury/Flickr)

Sunak's properties seem pretty swanky. For one, he has a £400,000 leisure complex at his £2 million Yorkshire mansion and him and his wife are believed to own at least four properties including their main residence, a five-bedroom mews house in Kensington, which is believed to be worth around £7 million.

One of these properties is a first-floor flat in Old Brompton Road, Kensington, which is said to act as a holiday home for visiting relatives. Given we doubt he has visitors every single day, perhaps it could be used to help refugees?

Then there are other members of the cabinet whose property portfolios aren't so voraciously reported on like Dominic Raab, Priti Patel, and the rest of the gang. Lack of available withstanding, given it is custom for many MPs and ministers to have a constituency dwelling and a gaff closer to Westminster, we reckon they have a few spare beds knocking about.

Regardless of whether they do help out or not, it is clear the trope sometimes used suggesting Britain is too full to accept more refugees is just not true.

The Independent has a proud history of campaigning for the rights of the most vulnerable, and we first ran our Refugees Welcome campaign during the war in Syria in 2015. Now, as we renew our campaign and launch this petition in the wake of the unfolding Ukrainian crisis, we are calling on the government to go further and faster to ensure help is delivered. To find out more about our Refugees Welcome campaign, click here. To sign the petition click here. If you would like to donate then please click here for our GoFundMe page.

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