The question being asked in homes across the UK and to ministers on our TV screens is; would you house a Ukrainian refugee?
Unsurprisingly the answer is predominantly; yes. But the issues surrounding such a generous humanitarian act are much more complex.
The UK Government is offering £350 per month as a thank you for taking in Ukrainian refugees. The process of how that will all actually work will be announced later today by Michael Gove.
The UK Government has said that a vetting process of refugees and UK hosts will have to take place first. European charities are thought to be trying to help by making the process easier by introducing refugees to hosts online. Children’s charities are also calling for child protection safeguards to be put in place. UNICEF estimates that there are around 1.5 million children who have been displaced in Ukraine and having refugee status.
The Ukrainian ambassador to the UK has expressed his views on the refugee crisis and said that he did not think huge numbers of refugees would come to the UK. He said that Ukrainians want to remain close to their home country. He said in relation to jobs, many will be doctors, highly skilled people and tech experts.
Some are questioning whether the UK can cope with such a large influx of refugees. Some have also made comparisons between the difference in attitudes and welcome for refugees fleeing from war in middle eastern countries to those fleeing from Ukraine.
According to UNHCR statistics, as of mid-2021 there were 135,912 refugees, 83,489 pending asylum cases and 3,968 stateless persons in the UK. Ireland’s refugee statistics for 2020 was 9,070.00, a 16.36% increase from 2019.
At a meeting of the Home Affairs Committee the Home Secretary Priti Patel said that the Asylum system is collapsing under the weight of the various strains abuses and sheer numbers coming to our (UK) country. The committee asked why thousands of children entitled to British Citizenship do not get it because they cannot afford it. Committee member Stuart McDonald said: “Surely home office think again how much it charges these kids to register.”
When asked what the figure was for asylum seekers in contingency accommodation the Home Secretary said that there were 25,000 people in hotels at the moment. Priti Patel said that MPs and local authorities were informed before any hotel is used.
The Home Secretary said that the Home Office did not want people in hotels. She said she was also working with the MOD and said that it was a thoroughly inadequate policy. She said that the government were looking at dispersal first and foremost and that they were looking at using partners in the MOD on alternative sites and alternative accommodation. In recent months there was an outcry at refugees being housed at a former army camp in Pembrokeshire.
The Covid-19 pandemic highlighted how the NHS system buckled under pressure. Many local authority areas have increased the council tax, fuel prices continue to rise and the cost of food is also expected to rise. There is an abundance of anecdotal evidence online of people’s concerns that they cannot get to see a GP or a dentist. The visas granted to any refugees entering under the scheme will be valid for three years. Refugees have been promised access to all services. The process for applying to be a host for Ukrainian refugees will be set out later today.
Pic. Policy Exchange, CC BY 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons