Ministers Hope Easing Security Checks For People Hosting Ukrainians Will Speed Up Refugee Resettlement
The government will begin matching individuals and businesses with Ukrainian refugees from Friday as part of the sponsorship visa scheme that will allow those without family connections to the UK to come here.
Officials are hopeful that the decision not to initially carry out time-consuming DBS security checks on hosts who have already established matches will result in a speedy roll out.
As part of phase one of the scheme, from Friday Ukrainian invididuals and familes with named people in the UK who want to take them in will be able to apply for visas.
The scheme will then be expanded to Ukrainians without prior links to individuals, businesses, and organisations in the UK, with a government source on Thursday telling PoliticsHome that it hopes to complete the rollout of the scheme in the next few weeks.
Over 150,000 people have registered an interest in taking in refugees ahead of tomorrow's phase one launch, according to the latest Department for Levelling Up, Housing & Communities (DLUHC) figures.
DLUHC, which is headed up by Michael Gove, is leading the scheme in close coordination with the Home Office. The Department for Education, and Department for Health and Social Care are also heavily involved in helping Ukrainians settle in the UK.
Ministers have initially decided against carrying out full DBS checks on those people applying to take in refugees on the grounds that it would lead to delays lasting several weeks.
Instead, officials will carry out less stringent checks on the first tranche of prospective hosts, with a government source telling PoliticsHome that "societal safeguards" like teachers and doctors will help monitor the welfare of Ukrainians as they start their new lives in the UK.
Lisa Nandy, the Shadow Secreary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, said that while she welcomed the launch of the scheme, there had been a "worrying lack of engagement" with councils about how the scheme work at local level.
"They stand ready to do their job but unless the government steps up and provides clear guidance, we risk squandering the amazing generosity of people who have offered to open their homes," she told PoliticsHome.
She also expressed concern that the "DIY nature" of the scheme for Ukrainians with no named links in the UK could create delays. "The government needs to cut unnecessary paperwork and play an active role in matching sponsors to refugees," she said.
The government has in recent weeks been under pressure from across the political spectrum to make it easier for Ukrainians fleeing Vladimir Putin's invasion to seek sanctuary in the UK.
Last week the Home Office announced that Ukrainians seeking refuge through the family scheme, in which those with relatives in the UK can apply to come here, would be digitised in order to make the scheme less time-consuming and bureaucratic for those applying.
Home Secretary Priti Patel faced fierce criticism over an earlier form of the family scheme, which as PoliticsHome reported, forced Ukrainian families to fill in multiple forms and in many cases wait over a week for separate appointments. Immigration lawyers helped Ukrainians fill in the paperwork, which were described as complex and containing unnecessary questions.
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