More than 100,000 Britons register to sponsor Ukrainian refugees in first hours of scheme opening

Scheme offers those providing a home to refugees a £350 monthly payment

Ashley Cowburn
Political Correspondent
Tuesday 15 March 2022 14:51 GMT
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Michael Gove reveals 'Homes for Ukraine' sponsorship scheme

More than 100,000 people have registered their interest in sponsoring Ukrainian refugees to stay in their homes – just 24 hours after the government website went live.

Offering those who provide sanctuary a monthly payment of £350, the scheme was formally launched on Monday after days of criticism over the government’s handling of the humanitarian crisis following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Michael Gove told MPs it will allow Ukrainians with no family links to come to the UK and benefit from “unrestricted access” to benefits, employment and healthcare.

The levelling-up secretary added there would be “no limit” to the number of Ukrainians who can benefit from the scheme.

At 9.30pm – five hours after being launched on Monday – more than 89,000 people had registered their interest in the programme, the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities said.

On Tuesday afternoon, Boris Johnson posted on social media: “Thank you to everyone across the country who has stepped up to offer their help so far.”

“It’s fantastic that over 100,000 people and organisations have recorded their interest in supporting Ukrainians fleeing the war through the Homes for Ukraine scheme.

The website – Homes for Ukraine – states: “This bespoke scheme will offer a route to those who want to come to the UK who have someone here willing to provide them with a home.

The website adds: “Sponsors should provide accommodation for as long as they are able, but we have a minimum expectation of 6 months.

“Someone is eligible for the scheme 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.”

It adds those members of the public with a person they wish to sponsor should get in contact with them directly and prepare to fill in a visa application, which will go live on 18 March, with all their details.

This map shows the extent of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine

“If you don’t know anyone who you wish to sponsor you may wish to get in touch with charities, faith groups or local community organisations who are starting to make connections between individuals,” it adds.

However, within minutes of the website going live, the link to the registration page was broken, leading users to a page stating that the site “cannot be reached”.

Labour MP Mike Kane pointed out that the website had crashed, noting that the ITV journalist Paul Brand had reported that is was not working and that the site could not be reached.

In response, Mr Gove appeared to deny the claim, saying: “I’m very sorry if Paul Brand’s internet connection is wonky.

“It seems as though the connection for my honourable friend the member for Rutland and Melton is superior – she has just signed up.”

Earlier the transport secretary Grant Shapps announced he would be signing up to the scheme to sponsor a Ukrainian refugee to live with his family.

“We’ve spent the past few weeks as a family discussing the devastating situation in Ukraine, and so we intend to apply today to join other UK households in offering our home to provide refuge to Ukrainians until it is safe for them to return to their country,” he said in a message at lunchtime on Monday.

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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