Ukraine war: British sponsors warn red tape may mean Ukrainian refugees DIE before getting to UK

Ukraine war: British sponsors warn red tape may mean Ukrainian refugees DIE before getting to UK 2
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British sponsors have warned that Ukrainians escaping Vladimir Putin’s bombs could die before they are allowed into the UK because of Whitehall red tape, as more than 150,000 big-hearted Britons including Suffolk’s top Church of England clergyman vow to open their homes to refugees. 

Some 25,000 applications to the Ukraine family programme have already been submitted, while tens of thousands more have signed up to the Government’s separate Homes For Ukraine sponsor scheme ahead of an expected influx of ‘thousands’ of Ukrainians into Britain next week. Under the Ukraine family scheme, 6,100 visas have been issued as of 4pm on Wednesday, the Home Office said. 

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Reverend Martin Seeley, Bishop of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich, said his family has registered to welcome refugees as soon as possible to their home in Ipswich, telling the East Anglian Daily Times: ‘We have taken a decision as a family to open our home like others have, to refugees fleeing the Ukraine and look forward to welcoming them as soon as possible into our house.

‘Not everyone will be able to offer rooms in their homes, but there are many ways to help.’

But other Britons have warned that Ukrainian refugees fleeing the war-torn European country could die before they are allowed into the UK because of nightmarish red tape and Whitehall inertia.

The Home Office was heavily criticised for a ‘chaotic’ response to the humanitarian disaster. Though Western intelligence had warned for weeks of the possibility of a large-scale Russian invasion of Ukraine, Whitehall appeared surprised by the attack and had no refugee scheme ready to launch.

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What are the two Ukrainian refugee schemes? How do they work? And why have there been problems? 

What are the two schemes to help Ukrainians?

The Ukraine Family Scheme allows applicants to join family members or extend their stay in the UK.

To apply to the Ukraine Family Scheme you must be applying to join or accompany your UK-based family member; be Ukrainian or the immediate family member of a Ukrainian national who is applying to the scheme; and have been residing in Ukraine on or immediately before January 1, 2022 (including those who have now left Ukraine).

The Homes For Ukraine scheme allows individuals, charities, community groups and businesses in the UK to sponsor Ukrainians fleeing the Russian invasion.

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So how does the Homes For Ukraine system work? 

On March 14, Michael Gove launched a webpage for sponsors to record their interest, ahead of Phase One of the scheme opening for applications.

Phase One of the scheme will open on Friday, March 18 for visa applications from Ukrainians who have named people willing to sponsor them. The scheme is open to Ukrainians and to their immediate family members.

People or organisations wanting to be sponsors who do not know anyone personally fleeing Ukraine can register their interest in being a sponsor from Monday, March 14. They will then be kept updated as the scheme develops.

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If you already have a named contact whom you wish to sponsor you should get in touch with them directly and prepare to fill in a visa application with all of their details and yours. The visa application route will go live on Friday, March 18.

If you do not currently know anyone whom you wish to sponsor, people are being encouraged to get in touch with charities, faith groups or local community organisations who are starting to make connections between individuals.

What are the rules for accepting Ukrainians refugees?

Sponsors will have to provide accommodation for a minimum of six months.

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The Government will provide a monthly payment of £350 to sponsors per family they look after. The payments are tax-free and will not affect benefit entitlement or council tax status.

Ukrainians arriving in the UK will also have access to the full range of public services, doctors and schools for up to three years. Health Secretary Sajid Javid has announced that Covid vaccines will be offered to Ukrainian refugees entering Britain, telling ITV’s Robert Peston: ‘We will make sure that they are offered upon arrival or soon after a Covid vaccine.

‘The vaccine rate in Ukraine is, I understand, around one third of the population so a lot less than ours, but also any other kind of medical screening. They will have access to their local GPs, just like you and I.’

Sponsors will need to undergo criminal record vetting before accepting refugees.

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Anyone who has lived in the UK legally for at least six months can apply to take in a refugee. The hosts do not have to be British citizens.

What problems have there been? And why?

British sponsors have complained of a range of problems – from online application forms that crash, difficulty in getting clear guidance from helpline staff and some advice hotlines charging premium rates of 69p a minute, to delays in visa processing times and extended, expensive stays in hotels in unfamiliar countries.

The Home Office was heavily criticised for a ‘chaotic’ response to the humanitarian disaster. Though Western intelligence had warned for weeks of the possibility of a large-scale Russian invasion of Ukraine, Whitehall appeared surprised by the attack and had no refugee scheme ready to launch.

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After Britain initially only accepted visa applications from those with immediate relatives in the UK, the Government was forced to make several U-turns and last-minute announcements to allow more Ukrainians in – including promises to pay Britons £350 a month to host refugees.

Home Office officials have insisted that the delays were caused by security considerations. Downing Street previously announced the Government was concerned that Russian agents could try to enter Britain by claiming to be Ukrainian refugees.

Former Tory minister Mark Harper told the House of Commons last week: ‘We have got to start working at the pace that these events require.’

Another former minister claimed: ‘They’re slow, they’re risk averse, there is no obvious ministerial direction happening. If ministers are clearly saying security remains a priority, that any scheme has to be “all boxes ticked” before it can be started, then you’re getting this wholly unacceptable delay.’

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After Britain initially only accepted visa applications from those with immediate relatives in the UK, the Government was forced to make several U-turns and last-minute announcements to allow more Ukrainians in – including promises to pay Britons £350 a month to host refugees.

Home Office officials have insisted that the delays were caused by security considerations. Downing Street previously announced the Government was concerned that Russian agents could try to enter Britain by claiming to be Ukrainian refugees. 

Sabrina and Tony Edge, from Driffield, contacted the Kurcher family in Ukraine two weeks ago, when they were forced to flee their home after the Russian invasion. After connecting online, Sabrina and Liliia Kucher became fast friends, and Sabrina prepared to open her home to the family of four.

But the Edge family are still no closer to getting the Kuchers to Britain. Meanwhile in Moldova, where the Kucher family are temporarily staying, there is news of bombing only 80 miles away.

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Mrs Edge said: ‘When the website was announced to be live, we were overjoyed to finally get the ball rolling after two long weeks worrying about Liliia and her family. We were so disappointed when we could only input our own details, and there was nowhere to provide details for the family we want to take in.

‘We have word that on Friday, Ukrainian refugees will be able to input their details and confirm they have already connected with us, but there has been no information to say how long it will take for their visas to be approved after that.

“We have even received a personal email from Priti Patel, giving us standard information about the scheme, but it is nothing that we don’t already know, and we think that the Government is simply stalling.’

She added: ‘I am just so frustrated, as some responses I have received say that I may not get a response for 20 working days. How many people could die in that time? How far would the situation have escalated by then?’.

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Former Tory minister Mark Harper told the House of Commons last week: ‘We have got to start working at the pace that these events require.’

Another former minister claimed: ‘They’re slow, they’re risk averse, there is no obvious ministerial direction happening. If ministers are clearly saying security remains a priority, that any scheme has to be “all boxes ticked” before it can be started, then you’re getting this wholly unacceptable delay.’

Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey has called for an emergency airlift for Ukrainian refugees on the Polish border who want to reach the UK.

In a letter to Foreign Secretary Liz Truss and the Home Secretary, the former Cabinet minister said London should provide free flights to the UK, with coaches to the nearest Polish airports from key border crossing points and welcome reception centres for the refugees on arrival in Britain.

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It comes following the party leader’s visit to the Polish border this week to meet with Ukrainian refugees and the charities supporting them.

In his letter, Sir Ed said he was ‘appalled by the lack of any organised UK Government sponsored or supported welcome, and the absence of UK Government personnel on the ground at the border’.

He added: ‘I met people who are desperate to come to the UK – often to join family members. However, there was no-one from the Government and no-one supported or sponsored by the UK Government to help them to get here or even to explain how they might get to the UK.

‘In just the past few days, more than 100,000 people across the UK have offered to host refugees fleeing Ukraine – demonstrating clearly the immense compassion of the British people. The Government must urgently step up its response to match that spirit of generosity.’

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The Refugee Council said it has several concerns about the scheme, specifically around red tape, safeguarding and resourcing.

Andy Hewett, head of advocacy, said: ‘We are concerned the scheme could be too slow and complex to help some of the most vulnerable, such as children who are alone and may find it difficult to apply for a visa.

‘There’s also the issue of this scheme favouring those who already know someone in the UK, who may not be those most at risk. Not only this, the extremely traumatised women and children who arrive from Ukraine will need significant specialist, professional support to come to terms with all they have endured.

‘Our worry is that the new scheme may not include the robust checks, training or professional support that will be needed to provide this.’

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Mr Hewett said the Government ‘urgently’ needs to publish guidance to provide ‘much-needed clarity’ for sponsors, local Government and civil society.

He added: ‘The generosity of the public has been incredibly heart-warming and we urge the Government to meet that in kind with a scheme that really works for the many people fleeing the war and bloodshed in Ukraine.’

Many are taking to social media and refugee groups to help host Ukrainians instead, posting their own adverts rather than using the government scheme.

A pub owner who experienced living in a women’s refuge as a child has said offering his home to house Ukrainian mothers and children would give him a pleasure he had ‘not experienced before’. 

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In Bubwith, East Riding of Yorkshire, Louise Sharp is offering a double en-suite room alongside space for another cat or dog to accompany her three cats, ‘very old’ dog and four hens. The education worker, who works from home several days a week, told MailOnline that her house is Victorian and has lots of ‘pre-loved’ furniture.

And Martha Jesty, who runs a Facebook group for British sponsors in Surrey and London, has also registered to host Ukrainian refugees at her home with her accountant husband and two children, aged 17 and 21. 

Over 40 Ukrainian orphans have been rescued and taken to safety in Znin Poland are now struggling to get to the UK due to the Governments red tape

Over 40 Ukrainian orphans have been rescued and taken to safety in Znin Poland are now struggling to get to the UK due to the Governments red tape

The children, aged from six to 17, left on March 8 from five orphanages in Dnipro

The children, aged from six to 17, left on March 8 from five orphanages in Dnipro

The children, aged from six to 17, left on March 8 from five orphanages in Dnipro

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Ukrainian refugees queue for food after their arrival at the main train station in Berlin, Germany, March 8, 2022

Ukrainian refugees queue for food after their arrival at the main train station in Berlin, Germany, March 8, 2022

Ukrainian children wait in a bus after crossing the Ukrainian-Romanian border in Siret, northern Romania, March 16, 2022

Ukrainian children wait in a bus after crossing the Ukrainian-Romanian border in Siret, northern Romania, March 16, 2022

The number of big-hearted Britons signing up to the Homes for Ukraine scheme has risen to 138,000

A British government notice at a welcome desk in Calais

The number of big-hearted Britons signing up to the Homes for Ukraine scheme (logo pictured left) has risen to 138,000, said Downing Street today – but only 5,500 visas have been approved. Pictured right: a British government notice in Calais

Sabrina and Tony Edge, from Driffield, contacted the Kurcher family in Ukraine two weeks ago, when they were forced to flee their home after the Russian invasion. After connecting online, Sabrina and Liliia Kucher became fast friends, and Sabrina prepared to open her home to the family of four. But the Edge family are still no closer to getting the Kuchers to Britain

Sabrina and Tony Edge, from Driffield, contacted the Kurcher family in Ukraine two weeks ago, when they were forced to flee their home after the Russian invasion. After connecting online, Sabrina and Liliia Kucher became fast friends, and Sabrina prepared to open her home to the family of four. But the Edge family are still no closer to getting the Kuchers to Britain

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Reverend Martin Seeley, Bishop of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich, said his family has registered to welcome refugees as soon as possible to their home in Ipswich, telling the East Anglian Daily Times: ‘We have taken a decision as a family to open our home like others have, to refugees fleeing the Ukraine and look forward to welcoming them as soon as possible into our house. Not everyone will be able to offer rooms in their homes, but there are many ways to help’

Reverend Martin Seeley, Bishop of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich, said his family has registered to welcome refugees as soon as possible to their home in Ipswich, telling the East Anglian Daily Times: ‘We have taken a decision as a family to open our home like others have, to refugees fleeing the Ukraine and look forward to welcoming them as soon as possible into our house. Not everyone will be able to offer rooms in their homes, but there are many ways to help’

Under the Ukraine family scheme, 6,100 visas have been issued as of 4pm on Wednesday, the Home Office said

Under the Ukraine family scheme, 6,100 visas have been issued as of 4pm on Wednesday, the Home Office said

The Daily Mail, Mail on Sunday and MailOnline UKRAINE REFUGEE APPEAL

Readers of Mail Newspapers and MailOnline have always shown immense generosity at times of crisis.

Calling upon that human spirit, we are now launching an appeal to raise money for refugees from Ukraine.

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For, surely, no one can fail to be moved by the heartbreaking images and stories of families – mostly women, children, the infirm and elderly – fleeing from Russia’s invading armed forces.

As this tally of misery increases over the coming days and months, these innocent victims of a tyrant will require accommodation, schools and medical support.

All donations to the Mail Ukraine Appeal will be distributed to charities and aid organisations providing such essential services.

In the name of charity and compassion, we urge all our readers to give swiftly and generously.

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TO MAKE A DONATION ONLINE 

Donate at www.mailforcecharity.co.uk/donate 

To add Gift Aid to a donation – even one already made – complete an online form found here: mymail.co.uk/ukraine

Via bank transfer, please use these details:

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Account name: Mail Force Charity

Account number: 48867365

Sort code: 60-00-01

TO MAKE A DONATION VIA CHEQUE

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Make your cheque payable to ‘Mail Force’ and post it to: Mail Newspapers Ukraine Appeal, GFM, 42 Phoenix Court, Hawkins Road, Colchester, Essex CO2 8JY

TO MAKE A DONATION FROM THE US

US readers can donate to the appeal via a bank transfer to Associated Newspapers or by sending checks to dailymail.com HQ at 51 Astor Place (9th floor), New York, NY 10003

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Some nine days after collecting the keys to the Montreal Arms in Brighton, Charlie Southall decided to offer it for use as a free co-living space for Ukrainian women and children who have fled the Russian invasion.

The 43-year-old has lived in Brighton for the last 15 years but grew up in poverty and spent a summer living in a women’s refuge in Stafford when he was 10 after his parents’ divorce.

At the time, Mr Southall received help from the youth charity The Prince’s Trust, founded by the Prince of Wales, which he said hugely influenced his decision to donate the building, as he knew the positive experience that charitable intervention could have.

‘Although it sounds horrific, and of course there was an underlying crisis, I have got really positive memories from that experience because it felt like a fresh start,’ he told the PA news agency.

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‘I’ve got first-hand experience of how that co-living, peer support system can really help people that are in that situation … now I’m able to do something to help others, and you know what, it’s been one of the nicest things I’ve done in recent times.

‘I was watching the news and like all of us, I’ve been quite moved by the humanitarian crisis … it really had an effect on me.

‘(Donating the pub) has woken me up and I’m enjoying it, it’s giving me a pleasure that I’ve not experienced before and it’s a fortunate position to be in.’

The video production company owner has started a GoFundMe page to raise £85,000 to pay for the renovations needed to turn the former pub into a usable living space.

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The renovation plans include creating a kitchen, a living space and a play area for children, utilising the open-plan layout on the ground floor of the building. There are already six rooms on the upper floor which will be used as bedrooms.

Mr Southall said he would offer the pub for a minimum of three years, to match the Government Homes for Ukraine refugee scheme which promises a three-year visa for refugees fleeing the war.

His campaign also aims to raise donations from local businesses and he would like local residents to contribute and participate in the building works.

He has been in talks with various charities to help with the property once it is up and running as a community space, including how to help with language barriers and mental health rehabilitation.

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Mr Southall said he had been moved by the support of the local community in Brighton, and that people had offered kitchen appliances and vans to help move supplies.

One woman, who owns a local pottery cafe, offered tiles with which Ukrainian children could paint and decorate their rooms.

A kind-hearted British couple has even started redesigning their whole house so they can host a Ukrainian family with a disabled son after they fled Putin’s wrath.

Gareth, 40, and 41-year-old Gemma Porter from Dover in Kent are planning to install a ramp and a kitchenette for wheelchair-user Roman Mokhnenko ahead of his arrival with sister Roxy, 22, her partner and her mother. The Mokhnenkos said they were overwhelmed with gratitude to the Porters as they planned their route from a cramped hostel near Lille in France.

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Roxy, who is learning to be an interpreter at a university in Ukraine, told ITV Meridian: ‘You can’t really explain the fear. I was scared I would be waiting for the train, and they will bomb everything, and we will die there.’

The family journeyed through Poland, Germany and Belgium before making it to Calais in France. They have been staying in a hostel which, unlike their home in Kyiv, does not have a specially adapted bathroom. Gareth, a project manager at a construction firm, has kept in contact with the Mokhnenkos while they apply for their visas. 

He said: ‘We’ve always given money to charity but never done anything to this scale. It’s really been brought home by seeing what’s happening over there. Especially as a dad myself, seeing the children out there really affected me. I hope and believe that if this was happening here, someone would do the same for my wife and kids and offer them safety.

‘It just felt like we had to do something to help. And it’s so rewarding to offer these people some hope when they’ve been through so much.’

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They signed up with SOLVE, a mental health charity in Thanet, Kent, which has organised more than 100 host homes, ahead of registering to the government scheme. 

Lord Richard Harrington, who took up his post as Refugee minister last week, accepted the 49-page visa application form is 'too long' after some 20,000 applications were submitted as of 4pm yesterday. Pictured: People fleeing the war in Ukraine fill out registration documents in Poland

Lord Richard Harrington, who took up his post as Refugee minister last week, accepted the 49-page visa application form is ‘too long’ after some 20,000 applications were submitted as of 4pm yesterday. Pictured: People fleeing the war in Ukraine fill out registration documents in Poland

Lord Harrington said he expects 'thousands of people' to arrive next week under the Homes for Ukraine sponsorship scheme, but added it 'may not be possible' for all accommodation being offered to be checked first. Pictured: a Ukranian family wait to speak to UK Home Office officials in a ferry port building in Calais

Lord Harrington said he expects ‘thousands of people’ to arrive next week under the Homes for Ukraine sponsorship scheme, but added it ‘may not be possible’ for all accommodation being offered to be checked first. Pictured: a Ukranian family wait to speak to UK Home Office officials in a ferry port building in Calais 

Gareth and Gemma Porter (both pictured above) from Dover in Kent are planning to install a ramp and a kitchenette for wheelchair-user Roman Mokhnenko ahead of his arrival with sister Roxy, 22, her partner and her mother

Gareth and Gemma Porter (both pictured above) from Dover in Kent are planning to install a ramp and a kitchenette for wheelchair-user Roman Mokhnenko ahead of his arrival with sister Roxy, 22, her partner and her mother

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Roxy (pictured left) with her brother Roman (centre back), mother (right) and Care4Calais's Clare Moseley. The family journeyed through Poland, Germany and Belgium before making it to Calais in France

Roxy (pictured left) with her brother Roman (centre back), mother (right) and Care4Calais’s Clare Moseley. The family journeyed through Poland, Germany and Belgium before making it to Calais in France

The comments came as the number of British families offering to open their homes to refugees soared to 122,305 yesterday. Pictured: the home of Lynn Lister, who said she has three bedrooms in her five-bedroom house up for grabs in Bedfordshire

The comments came as the number of British families offering to open their homes to refugees soared to 122,305 yesterday. Pictured: the home of Lynn Lister, who said she has three bedrooms in her five-bedroom house up for grabs in Bedfordshire

Meanwhile Lillie Alexander, from the South Coast, also put out a call for those looking for a place to stay (her cottage, above)

Meanwhile Lillie Alexander, from the South Coast, also put out a call for those looking for a place to stay (her cottage, above)

Up in Cumbria, Keren Simons told MailOnline she was desperate to help and has a spare room available in a 'quiet, peaceful market town'

Up in Cumbria, Keren Simons told MailOnline she was desperate to help and has a spare room available in a ‘quiet, peaceful market town’

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George Hill, 83, and wife Svitlana, 66, and her daughter-in-law Maryna, 33, have just arrived with her seven-year-old daughter Myroslva from Ukraine

George Hill, 83, and wife Svitlana, 66, and her daughter-in-law Maryna, 33, have just arrived with her seven-year-old daughter Myroslva from Ukraine

‘There is a warm welcome waiting for you in Wales’: Mark Drakeford announces Ukrainian refugees who settle in Wales can use public transport for FREE 

Refugees settling in Wales after fleeing the war in Ukraine will be entitled to free travel, Mark Drakeford has announced.

Labour’s Welsh First Minister said refugees can travel for free on Transport for Wales services for the next six months. They will be able to claim free travel by showing a Ukraine passport to conductors and station staff.

The scheme is an extension of an ongoing Welsh Government programme which provides free public transport for asylum seekers in Wales.

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Drakeford said: ‘My message to the people of Ukraine is clear; there is a warm welcome waiting for you in Wales.

Refugees from Ukraine wait for registration at a German Red Cross desk upon arrival at the main railway station in Stuttgart, southern Germany, March 17, 2022

Refugees from Ukraine wait for registration at a German Red Cross desk upon arrival at the main railway station in Stuttgart, southern Germany, March 17, 2022

Travellers, most of them refugees from Ukraine, line up at a ticket counter at the train station in Krakow, Poland, March 17, 2022

Travellers, most of them refugees from Ukraine, line up at a ticket counter at the train station in Krakow, Poland, March 17, 2022

‘Transport for Wales providing free travel for all refugees is another action which shows Wales is a place of safety and sanctuary for those who need our help.

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‘I am also proud that Wales intends to become a super-sponsor for the UK Government’s Homes for Ukraine scheme, which will provide a safe route for people to come to the UK for up to three years.’

James Price, chief executive of Transport for Wales, said: ‘All of us will have seen the shocking and distressing scenes from Ukraine over the past few weeks.

‘Many of us have been deeply affected by what’s happening, and we want to do what we can to support the Ukrainian people in their time of need.

‘We’re proud of our record of supporting groups with free travel, including being a part of the national Rail to Refuge scheme offering free travel for people fleeing domestic abuse, and offering free rail travel for NHS workers during 2020.

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‘This is a further extension of our commitment to social justice and helping make the world a better place.’

Gareth added: ‘They’re looking to come over in two to three weeks but hopefully that’s sped up by this new government policy. We’ve spoken to the family on FaceTime and it was very emotional.’

Rachel Poulton has housed young refugees from Eritrea, Ethiopia, Sudan, Iran and Afghanistan for the past five and a half years. She was awarded an MBE for services to fostering last year along with husband Nigel – and the couple are now preparing to welcome a Ukrainian family.

Rachel said: ‘We will be laying a few more places at the dinner table and the house will be a bit busier but I don’t think we’ll notice much more than that. It feels like the least we can do. We’re DBS checked. The beds are already made up. We’re ready to welcome a family as soon as possible.

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‘This is something we’ve been fortunate enough to be able to do. But it’s heartening to see thousands more families across the country come forward.

‘Like everyone, we’ve been watching the terrible videos from Ukraine every day. Time is clearly of the essence and I just hope this happens quickly now. One of our friends is working in Ukraine to get disadvantaged people out the country and he said thousands of them are leaving now without any clue of where there going and how. We need to make sure we get this right.’

Their four-bedroom bungalow in Yorkshire, which has now been adapted to include more beds, has a large family suite with a double bed and room for a couple of singles going spare. They currently look after two children, four young refugees and a 100-year-old woman.

Rachel, whose five other children who have grown-up and moved out, says her youngest son aged 13 was willing to give up his bedroom to a Ukrainian. She said: ‘It’s so important to make them feel as safe as possible to allow them to recover after the horror they’ve experienced.

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‘If anyone is hesitant about doing something like this, it has so many benefits to your own family as well as someone else’s who you’re helping.’

Meanwhile, one of the first refugees to escape the war in Ukraine under the Government’s fast-track visa scheme for relatives of British citizens has spoken of her ordeal.

Maryna Makarenko, 33, and her husband Denis, 44, fled with their seven-year-old daughter Myroslava as missiles rained on their home city of Kharkiv in north- eastern Ukraine. The mother and daughter have now found sanctuary with their British relatives who helped them obtain a visa from Poland, while Denis remains in Krakow waiting for his visa to be processed. 

Maryna Makarenko, 33, and her husband Denis, 44, fled with their seven-year-old daughter Myroslava as missiles rained on their home city of Kharkiv in north-eastern Ukraine

Maryna Makarenko, 33, and her husband Denis, 44, fled with their seven-year-old daughter Myroslava as missiles rained on their home city of Kharkiv in north-eastern Ukraine 

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Ukraine war: British sponsors warn red tape may mean Ukrainian refugees DIE before getting to UK 3

Niyara Mamontova, 40, and her seven-year-old daughter Eleanora, are among the first families to be resettled in the UK

They will move in with Si and Don Morris-Green and their two children in Hampshire after connecting on Facebook

They will move in with Si and Don Morris-Green and their two children in Hampshire after connecting on Facebook

After several nights of intense bombing at the beginning of this month, Maryna and Denis grabbed what they could and headed for the train station and taking a 20-hour journey to the relative safety of Lviv in western Ukraine.

From there, the exhausted family made it over the border to Przemysl, Poland, on March 4. Denis was allowed to leave the country due to a disability. On Monday the mother and daughter flew on to Bristol having secured one of the first UK family visas issued for Ukrainian refugees since the war began.

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‘It’s just so difficult leaving my family behind,’ said Maryna, as her mother-in-law, who has lived in the UK for more than 15 years, translated for her.

‘My mother is 65 and is a widow and is on her own. Initially we didn’t think we’d have to leave but on the morning of February 24 we woke up in Kharkiv to the sound of air raid sirens. We weren’t sure what was happening at first but it became clear when we had to spend three nights in the basement of a friend’s house to avoid the bombs.

‘We’d wake up during the night with explosions and gunfire very close. The house would shake and the windows of our building were blown in.’ The family left Kharkiv on March 1.

‘The train station was so frightening,’ recalled Maryna. ‘Men were trying to push their wives and children inside already crowded trains. Everyone was desperately trying to call family members as news kept coming in about more bombs and more destroyed homes.’

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After arriving in Lviv the family made their way by train again to Przemysl in Poland and on to Rzeszow, where a makeshift refugee visa centre was processing applicants wanting to get to the UK.

Incredibly, Svitlana, 66, Maryna’s Ukrainian mother-in-law, flew from the UK to help them fill out the paperwork. Days later Maryna and Myroslava flew to the UK and are now living in Weston-super-Mare with Svitlana and her British husband George Hill, 83, a retired Ministry of Defence police officer.

Little Myroslava said: ‘I’ve left all my friends behind and my piano, which I love playing. My parents also promised to take me horse riding for my birthday next month but now that’s impossible.’

How YOU can help refugees fleeing Putin’s bloody war: From finding someone to shelter, to the government support you can expect… vital Q&A on Britain’s Homes for Ukraine scheme

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British householders have been urged to throw open their doors to Ukrainian refugees as the civilian death toll continues to rise in the conflict.

The UK Government has set out details of a sponsorship scheme allowing individuals and organisations to offer a home to refugees fleeing the fighting.

Michael Gove announced the ‘Homes for Ukraine’ scheme as the Government scrambled to make it easier for people to come to the UK.

Almost three million people have fled since the Russian invasion and civilians have continued to find themselves caught up in the fighting this week.

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There have been 1,663 civilian casualties since the invasion, the UK’s Ministry of Defence said, citing United Nations figures – although the true statistic may be far higher. So far, 88,000 people in Britain have signed up to take in a Ukrainian.

Here, MailOnline answers some of the key questions regarding the scheme:  

– What is the scheme?

The Homes for Ukraine programme is a sponsorship scheme allowing people and organisations in Britain to offer Ukrainians fleeing the war a home in the UK.

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The scheme allows individuals, charities, community groups and businesses to bring people escaping the war to safety – even if they have no ties to the UK.

Anyone with a room or home available can offer it to a Ukrainian individual or a family, though those offering will be vetted and Ukrainian applicants will undergo security checks.

Communities Secretary Michael Gove said that initially the scheme will ‘facilitate sponsorship between people with known connections’ so it can be ‘up and running as soon as possible’.

However, he added that it will ‘rapidly’ expand by working with charities, faith and community groups.

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Previously only Ukrainians with family members already settled in the UK could come.

– How long can refugees stay with a family or individual?

Members of the public providing accommodation to Ukrainians must do so for at least six months.

Sponsored Ukrainians will be granted three years’ leave to remain in the UK, with entitlement to work and access public services.

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– What security checks will be carried out?

Mr Gove said the Government wants to ‘minimise bureaucracy and make the process as straightforward as possible, while also doing everything we can to ensure the safety of all involved’.

Sponsors and all adults in their households will need to submit to security checks and possibly also safeguarding checks.

The suitability of the accommodation may also be assessed by their local council.

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Ukrainians will be subject to ‘standard’ security checks, according to the website, with biometric checks made after they arrive in the UK to avoid delays.

Mr Gove has said steps will be taken to ensure people who might be ‘intent on exploitation’ are prevented from ‘abusing’ the new scheme.

People queue on March 12 to board a train in Zahony, Hungary, as millions of refugees flee

People queue on March 12 to board a train in Zahony, Hungary, as millions of refugees flee

– How are children going to be protected? 

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A spokesman for the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) said the charity did not want to see ‘unnecessary barriers’ built into the process, but ‘it is vital child protection is built into every stage of the Government’s and local authorities’ response to this crisis’.

Paul Anticoni, chief executive of World Jewish Relief, said the protection of those who have had to leave their homes – many of whom are women and children – ‘has to be a priority for any government or agencies that are involved in accommodation’.

– Is there any compensation for hosting – and what can you use it for?

Those offering a place to stay will receive an optional tax-free monthly payment of £350 which will not affect benefit entitlements or council tax status.

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The ‘thank you’ payment is limited to one payment per residential address, and can be spent or saved as you wish. Hosts should not charge any rent. 

Mr Gove has also said local authority areas will be entitled to more than £10,000 per Ukrainian refugee using the fresh route to the UK.

‘Additional payments’ will be available to support school-age children who need to be accommodated within the education system, he said.

– Do sponsors provide anything other than accommodation?

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Sponsors are not expected to provide meals or cover the costs of food and living expenses for their guests, unless they wish to do so philanthropically.

– Can sponsors help refugees find work and access services? 

The Government will provide information to sponsors so that they can point their guests to organisations who can help them access benefits, register with a GP and with school placements.

All refugees will be allowed to seek and take up employment, and there is nothing stopping sponsors helping them find a job. 

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– Who can be a host?

Sponsors can be of any nationality and any immigration status as long as they have permission to be in the UK for at least six months.

Anyone with a spare room, or separate self-contained accommodation that is unoccupied and available for at least six months can volunteer to help.

Ukrainian refugees crowd into support points at Krakow train station in Poland on March 14

Ukrainian refugees crowd into support points at Krakow train station in Poland on March 14

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– Who can be a guest?

The website says someone is eligible if they are a ‘Ukrainian national or the immediate family member of a Ukrainian national, and were resident in Ukraine prior to 1 January 2022.’

The scheme is open for adults and children within family units.

– How do you apply? 

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If you have a named person who you wish to sponsor you should get in contact with them directly and prepare to fill in a visa application with all their details and yours.

The visa application system will go live this Friday.  

– What if you don’t have a name to give? 

People wanting to be sponsors who do not know anyone personally fleeing the Ukraine can register their interest here: homesforukraine.campaign.gov.uk.

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The Government will work with charities, faith groups and universities to match potential hosts with people from Ukraine – so you can still get involved if you don’t know anyone from the country.

More detailed guidance for sponsors will become available in the coming days, according to the website.

Anyone registering will receive updates on the security checks, information on the status of the arrangement and the role of the local council in providing wider support.

People who fled the Ukraine war rest inside an old train station building in Krakow on March 11

People who fled the Ukraine war rest inside an old train station building in Krakow on March 11 

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Can you host AND employ a refugee?

There is nothing in the Government’s FAQs on the scheme which say you cannot host and employ a refugee, so it would appear that you can – for example if you run a small business.

However, to be sure, MailOnline has contacted the Department for Levelling Up, Housing & Communities for clarity on this. 

What rights will Ukrainian refugees have?

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Refugees will be granted leave to remain in the UK for three years. They will be able to work and access benefits and public services – including healthcare and schooling.

– What rights will you have if there are problems?

A change in circumstances could mean that someone is then unable to continue housing someone for the full six months.

A Government source told the Daily Telegraph that the state would get involved if a refugee has to find other housing earlier than the six month period, and that this could then be taxpayer-funded.

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Volunteers sort donations to help Ukrainian refugees in Przemysl, Poland, on March 12

Volunteers sort donations to help Ukrainian refugees in Przemysl, Poland, on March 12

– How many Ukrainians are expected to be helped through the scheme?

The Government is setting no limit, saying the UK will welcome as many Ukrainians as wish to come and for whom there are sponsors.

Members of the public are being urged to come forward and help if they can.

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In less than an hour, 1,500 people had already registered for the scheme, Mr Gove told MPs, adding that he hopes the first Ukrainians to receive support under the project will arrive within a week.

This morning, it was revealed that 88,000 people have signed up on the website.

– What has been the response?

Shadow communities secretary Lisa Nandy said Labour was relieved to hear Mr Gove would announce the sponsorship scheme after weeks of delay, adding: ‘A press release is not a plan and we are really deeply concerned about the lack of urgency.’

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Ms Nandy insisted the visa application process could be simplified, telling Mr Gove: ‘We could keep essential checks but drop the excessive bureaucracy.’

Mr Gove, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps and Academy Award-nominated actor Benedict Cumberbatch are among those who have said they might apply to the scheme, while Boris Johnson and Health Secretary Sajid Javid have indicated they will not.

The Government has faced widespread criticism for its response to the refugee crisis so far, with critics noting that unlike the UK all EU countries have waived visa requirements for Ukrainians in the short term.

The Refugee Council chief executive Enver Solomon told The Guardian the UK scheme was ‘effectively a managed migration route, which is not suitable to use to respond to a humanitarian crisis’.

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‘This conflict doesn’t look like it’s going to end quickly. There needs to be a clear pathway to longer-term accommodations,’ he said.

There have been also concerns about the tight timeframe the Government has provided, with the NSPCC in its statement calling it an ‘ambitious turnaround’.

The charity said it was ‘essential that the Government works closely with local authorities, the fostering community, charities and other key local partners to ensure this sponsorship scheme is ultimately safe; has appropriate levels of support for traumatised Ukrainian children who have fled bloodshed, and on-going assistance available for their sponsors’. 

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