As a UK-wide network of frontline charities, including 31 hosting organisations, providing accommodation and support to destitute people in the asylum and immigration system, we welcome further details of the Government’s newly-launched ‘Homes for Ukraine’ scheme for Ukrainians wishing to come to the UK.
We know from the vital work of our members the important role that hosting can play in providing safe, temporary homes to people fleeing persecution, trauma and conflict who are in need of urgent protection and stability. The ‘Homes for Ukraine’ scheme speaks to this need, as does the overwhelmingly positive response from the British public in wanting to open their doors and communities to those seeking a safe haven.
However, whilst there is no doubt that the ‘Homes for Ukraine’ scheme will provide an urgent and much-needed emergency pathway to safety for Ukrainians wishing to come to the UK, we cannot and should not ignore the Government’s hugely differential and discriminatory approach to the Ukraine refugee crisis compared to previous, ongoing, refugee crises.
‘Homes for Ukraine’ represents a managed migration programme instead of a refugee protection scheme. As part of this we welcome better initial rights for people seeking refuge, including the right to work and access to benefits, however anyone fleeing war and persecution should have a clear, safe and supported route to claim asylum in the UK, regardless of their country of origin or the conflict they are escaping from. An asylum system that enables refugees to reach the UK as quickly and safely as possible should also be agile enough to respond to any emergency humanitarian crisis. Sadly, we are very far from having the humane and responsive asylum system that displaced people seeking safety in the UK so desperately need.
The Government has given assurances that it will work in partnership with Local Authorities, charities, faith groups and other local organisations to deliver the ‘Homes for Ukraine’ scheme and we urge the DLUHC to be open to and guided by their partners’ expertise in providing community-based accommodation and support to people who have experienced trauma and conflict.
Hosting works best when the right time, support and consideration has been given to facilitating a positive and safe hosting placement. The experience of our members tells us that with the proper vetting and matching of hosts and guests, property checks, training to ensure a trauma-informed response and ongoing support within an appropriate community setting, hosting can provide a key pathway to safety for someone in need of refuge. It’s vital that the Government’s emergency response to the Ukraine refugee crisis does not come at the expense of hosts’ and guests’ wellbeing and safety.
Some key concerns remain for us around practical aspects of the scheme and as ‘Homes for Ukraine’ becomes operational in the coming days and weeks, we, alongside our members, will be looking for assurances and clarity on points including:
- How will vetting and safeguarding checks be done?
- What ongoing support will there be to ensure an appropriate and trauma-informed response to supporting guests from Ukraine and to minimise the risk of, at best, relationship breakdown between host and guest and, at worst, exploitation and harm?
- What will the roles and responsibilities of charities and Local Authorities be, particularly around matching hosts and guests and ensuring safeguarding?
- What support will there be for people to leave the hosting placement and settle independently in the community or claim asylum?
The establishment of long-term routes to permanent resettlement will also be vital to the overall success of ‘Homes for Ukraine’. Further consideration needs to be given to housing and integration support beyond short-term hosting placements, to enable people to rebuild their lives here – or indeed claim asylum – if they wish.
Each year NACCOM members accommodate around 3,000 people who are left homeless and destitute in the UK because of their immigration status. The call for a fairer, more compassionate approach to asylum – and a system that is accessible to anyone in need of refugee protection – has never been louder. Like many partners in the sector, and supported by the Lords, we are calling on the Government to commit to a refugee resettlement programme supporting at least 10,000 people each year, that would work alongside Community Sponsorship and hosting projects, whilst still fulfilling the Government’s commitment to the International Refugee Convention.
We are also calling on the Government to rethink the Nationality and Borders Bill currently going through Parliament. The crisis in Ukraine has shown the moral imperative to scrap Clause 11 of the Bill, which would effectively criminalise people arriving by ‘irregular’ routes and push them into destitution, and to give people claiming asylum the right to work to enable them to lead safe and fulfilling lives.
NACCOM has written a joint letter to the Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, to express our collective concerns around the Homes for Ukraine scheme.
Co-signed by 16 refugee and anti-trafficking charities, the letter warns the Government that Homes for Ukraine has insufficient safeguards for those seeking sanctuary, and risks putting people coming to the UK as part of the scheme at risk of exploitation and harm.