20,000 applications made to Homes for Ukraine scheme - but minister refuses to say how many visas issued

Government still declining to reveal how many Ukrainians have arrived in UK under sponsorship scheme amid mounting concern that application process is overly complex and inaccessible

Minister refuses to say how many visas issued after 20,000 applications made to Homes for Ukraine scheme

More than 20,000 applications have been received under the Homes for Ukraine scheme since it opened nine days ago, the minister for refugees has said.

Richard Harrington revealed the figure in response to a question in the House of Lords – but he declined to say how many Ukrainians had so far arrived in the UK under the scheme, which a prominent peer said was “worrying”.

It comes amid mounting frustration over the government’s refusal to publish figures on the scheme. Ministers released numbers on applications to the separate Ukraine family scheme within two days; it has been over a week since the sponsorship scheme launched.

The Homes for Ukraine scheme was designed to allow Ukrainians with no family links to come to Britain and be hosted by members of the public, who will be paid £350 per month for doing so. More than 150,000 people have so far registered their interest in hosting.

Experts have warned that a “convoluted” application process requiring people who are still in Ukraine or are currently homeless near the border to find someone in the UK able to house them, and then requiring the refugee or host to fill out “very difficult” online forms, is making it “nigh on impossible” for people to apply.

The Independent is raising money for the people of Ukraine – if you would like to donate then please click here for our GoFundMe page.

Asked how many applications for visas under the sponsorship scheme had been received and how many refugees had entered the UK on Monday, Mr Harrington said: “More than 20,000 applications have been received, and we will be providing further information in due course.”

In response, Baroness Finlay of Llandaff – who asked the original question - said: “The lack of information is extremely worrying.”

Lord Cunningham of Felling later said: “Isn’t the simple question – or is the minister telling us he doesn’t know – how many Ukrainians have under this scheme been admitted to the UK? It’s quite simple. Or does he not know?”

Mr Harrington told him that the government would “be publishing the answer to the question very soon, I promise.”

It comes after refugee charity Positive Action in Housing, which is supporting families coming to the UK under the scheme, revealed that no visas had been granted to those it is helping.

Robina Qureshi, director of the charity – which runs Room for Refugees, the UK’s longest-running refugee hosting programme – warned that the scheme had left those seeking refuge “to turn in desperation to strangers on social media for sponsors”, and warned of trafficking risks.

The Independent has a proud history of campaigning for the rights of the most vulnerable, and we first ran our Refugees Welcome campaign during the war in Syria in 2015. Now, as we renew our campaign and launch this petition in the wake of the unfolding Ukrainian crisis, we are calling on the government to go further and faster to ensure help is delivered. To find out more about our Refugees Welcome campaign, click here. To sign the petition click here. If you would like to donate then please click here for our GoFundMe page.

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