Evacuated orphans find shelter in far western Ukraine and Poland
France 24

Since Russia's invasion of Ukraine three weeks ago, more than two million people have fled the country. Now, the public can open their homes to help refugees out of the crisis.

After facing backlash from people saying it is not doing enough to support those fleeing the conflict, the government have launched a "sponsored" scheme that will allow an unlimited amount of Ukrainians with no family ties to seek sanctuary in the UK.

The British public will be asked to help house refugees, who will be eligible to work, access state benefits and public services.

Michael Gove, the Levelling Up, Housing and Communities Secretary, has said that anyone keen to offer refugees shelter in the UK can register their interest through the new scheme from Monday 14th March.

He said more than 3,000 visas have been issued so far to Ukrainians seeking refuge in the UK, and estimates that “tens of thousands” more will be provided.

Boris Johnson said that the sponsorship route will allow "everybody in this country can offer a home to people fleeing Ukraine".

The government says it "will work closely with international partners and neighbouring countries on the scheme to ensure that displaced Ukrainians forced to flee their homes are supported to apply".

How can you help?

The government will launch a hotline and website later on Monday. Those who are able to help can register to offer accommodation and employment to Ukrainian refugees.

Those who register must undergo security checks and a vetting process to prevent people who might have "intent on exploitation" from "abusing" the new scheme.

Gove told Sky News: “We absolutely do need to make sure, first of all, that the people in Ukraine are who they say they are, so there need to be some security checks there.

“There’s been understandable concern about the scheme being exploited possibly by criminal elements. So, that’s the first thing.

“Then the second thing is we do need to make sure that people here are in a position to provide that support, which is why there will need to be security checks as well to make sure that those - and I think it would only ever be a tiny minority, but still - those who might be intent on exploitation can be prevented from abusing the system.”

Brits who host a refugee will receive a "thank you" payment of £350 a month, along with additional payment to support children who will need to be accommodated within the education system.

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A second option is the extended family route allows Ukrainians to enter the UK for up to three years – if they have extended family in the country. This scheme will allow around 200,000 people into the UK.

Ukrainians who want to enter under this scheme must have family who is one of the following:

  • A British citizen
  • Has UK settled status, proof of permanent residence or indefinite leave to remain
  • Someone with refugee status or humanitarian protection in the UK
  • An EU, Icelandic, Norwegian, Swiss, or Liechtenstein national with pre-settled status who started living in the UK before 1st January 2021

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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