Mon, 15 August 2022

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UK Households Offered £350-Per-Month To Take In Ukrainian Refugees As Russian Invasion Escalates

UK Households Offered £350-Per-Month To Take In Ukrainian Refugees As Russian Invasion Escalates
5 min read

Michael Gove has said that councils will receive £10,000 to support each Ukrainian refugee in their area as people offered £350 a month to give up their spare rooms to those fleeing Russian invasion.

The government has now issued more than 3,000 visas to Ukrainians fleeing the Russian invasion, Michael Gove has confirmed after a week of pressure on government to further support those leaving the war-torn country.

The levelling up, housing and communities secretary outlined details of the new sponsorship visa scheme, that will allow individuals and organisations to offer homes to Ukrainians who do not have family ties to the UK, as the the situation within Ukraine worsened drastically.

This morning Vladimir Putin’s troops executed a strike on a major military facility close to the Polish border, killing at least 35 people and injuring 134 more.

It is a highly significant escalation of the conflict, as the base is believed to have been used to receive incoming weapons shipments from the West as well as training foreign volunteers coming to help the Ukrainian military, and will pile more pressure on Nato countries to go further in tackling Russian aggression.

Applications for the sponsorship visa scheme will open on Monday, and the first Ukrainians will be matched with UK sponsors on Friday. It will be open to "tens of thousands" of people, who are expected to arrive in a week.

Gove, who is in charge of the new route to offer sanctuary to Ukrainians, said local authorities will be given £10,000 per person who is settled in their area.

Individuals who offer a spare room to a refugee will receive £350 a month from the government to cover costs, and will be told not to charge rent to a refugee staying in their home. 

"People can register their interest on Monday," Gove told Sky's Sophy Ridge on Sunday.

"Matching will be taking place from Friday. I would expect that in a week's time we'll see the first people coming here under the scheme."

He said he believed "tens of thousands” of Ukrainians were likely to be matched with people in the UK participating with the scheme. 

Gove also confirmed councils would receive "just over" £10,000 per Ukrainian person taken in to help pay for the use of local services. 

"Then there'll be additional payments for those children who are of school age and who need to be accommodated within the educational system," he added. 

Previously the UK has only allowed Ukrainians with existing family links in the country to apply for a visa, 3,000 of which have now been granted. 

Gove said now the separate humanitarian route is up and running, he expects the first refugees making use of the scheme to come to Britain in days.

Ukrainians who come to the UK via the sponsorship route will be able to remain in the UK for up to three years, they will be allowed to work, use the NHS and access some benefits, with the exception of housing payments.

Sponsors will be asked to provide homes or spare rooms for a minimum of six months, and although they should not ask for rent they could ask for "a contribution to bills and food" once their lodgers "find their feet”, according to The Sunday Telegraph.

Gove himself said he is in the process of "seeking to see what I can do" as an individual, when asked if he would be signing up to offer a room.

But the government's handling of refugee crisis has been described as "an embarrassment” by Labour leader Keir Starmer, who said that the government's response has been too slow, and there should be no cap on the number arriving in the UK.

The situation in Ukraine is also believed to have softened foreign secretary Liz Truss's stance on triggering Article 16 of the Northern Ireland protocol, which was otherwise believed to be imminent after months of stalled negotiations on the EU's trading relationship with the province. According to The Telegraph, Truss believes that creating tension with the EU by triggering Article 16 would be unhelpful while the UK needs to work with the bloc on its response against Russia. 

But Prime Minister Boris Johnson has told the Irish Taoiseach Micheal Martin that "significant changes" are still needed with the Protocol – after Martin said there is a growing view that it is working. 

The pair met for talks in London yesterday before watching Ireland beat England in the Six Nations rugby at Twickenham.

Johnson told Martin he hopes the "same spirit of co-operation" the UK and EU have shared during the Ukraine crisis can be applied to Brexit discussions.

The Chancellor Rishi Sunak is also said to be preparing a "two stage" set of further interventions to tackle the cost-of-living crisis which is also expected to be exacerbated by the invasion of Ukraine, according to The Sunday Telegraph.

He is believed to have conceded the need for a significantly beefed-up spring statement next week as the scale of the Ukraine crisis is causing households to face the biggest hit to their finances in a generation.

Yesterday PoliticsHome reported that the Chancellor held meetings with multiple Conservative MPs this week where he heard their suggestions for how to further protect households from soaring energy prices.

This morning Sunak made a call to UK businesses to "think very carefully" about any investments in Russia that would support Putin's regime, and welcomed commitments from firms like BP and Shell who have announced plans to divest from Moscow since the invasion.

"We must collectively go further in our mission to inflict maximum economic pain - and to stop further bloodshed,” he said.

The government's relationship with figures connected to Russia has also faced further scrutiny today. The Sunday Times reported that Johnson was warned about granting a peerage to his close friend Evgeny Lebedev two years ago by British intelligence.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has written to the House of Lords Appointment Commission chair Lord Brew to raise concerns over the the appointment from 2020.

"In light of the further revelations today, I think the Prime Minister has got serious questions to answer: What did he know? And did he override security advice?,” Starmer told Sky News. 

But Gove defended meetings between government figures and Lebedev. "I've met Lord Lebedev, as the Prime Minister has," he told the BBC.  

"At no point did anyone ever say to me that it would be inappropriate to meet him and to talk to him."

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