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UK Has Issued 3,000 Visas To Ukrainians, With Sponsorship Scheme Opening To Thousands More From Monday

UK Has Issued 3,000 Visas To Ukrainians, With Sponsorship Scheme Opening To Thousands More From Monday
4 min read

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 also outlined details of a 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. 

Applications for the 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 that 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. 

James Jamieson, chairman of the Local Government Association, is calling on the government to work closely with them and the community and voluntary sector so the scheme “can move at pace and scale”.

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. 

According to UN estimates, almost three million people have fled Ukraine since the war began just over two weeks ago, and the UK has face criticism for not being as open to refugees as other European nations, which are offering Ukrainians visa-free access for three years.

There has also been criticism of the government for how the scheme had been run so far, and for delay in announcing how a separate humanitarian pathway to come here would operate.

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

The new scheme, which allows people remain in the UK for up to three years, brings Britain’s approach closer to that of the EU, where refugees from Ukraine do not require visas.

Ukrainians who come to the UK via the sponsorship route will be allowed to work, use the NHS and access some benefits, with the exception of housing payments.

The government confirmed Ukrainian applicants "will undergo security checks” before arrival, and Gove said steps must be taken to ensure people who might be "intent on exploitation" are prevented from "abusing" the scheme.

"There's been understandable concern about the scheme being exploited possibly by criminal elements,” he told Sky.

"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."

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.

"It is the case that something like one-in-10 UK citizens, which is an amazing amount, have said that they want to do something to help,” the cabinet minister said. 

“But we want to make sure that people are in a position to help, because inevitably it's a significant commitment.

"I recognise that we need to operate in different ways and in different phases to help people who are fleeing persecution."

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

"The likelihood of an invasion of Ukraine was known weeks ago," Starmer told Sky News. 

"The Home Office have been far too slow, far too mean in relation to this, and frankly the last few weeks have been an embarrassment for the United Kingdom in the way that it has dealt with refugees.

"We should provide sanctuary to all of those who are fleeing for their lives that want to come to the United Kingdom and play our full part."

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