Ukrainians trying to come to the UK, without family already here, will need to have a “connection” with their prospective sponsor to get a refugee visa, housing secretary Michael Gove has said.
Gove said Ukrainian refugees will need to organise a sponsor themselves before they get here, but that he wants to “rapidly expand the scheme in a phased way with charities, churches and community groups”.
The new Homes for Ukraine scheme gives refugees two routes to come to the UK for three years – they can have extended family here or they can be sponsored by individuals, businesses or charities.
Gove today told MPs that “there will be no limit to the number of Ukrainians” who can come to the UK through these pathways.
Transport secretary Grant Shapps and several other MPs today said they would host Ukrainian refugees in their homes.
Ukrainian refugees will be given the right to work and claim benefits in the UK, while also being given full access to British public services like healthcare.
The housing secretary said the government will not initially be able to match refugees with British sponsors to ensure the scheme can be rolled out at pace.
“Homes for Ukraine will initially facilitate sponsorships between people with known connections,” Gove said.
“We will rapidly expand the scheme in a phased way with charities, churches and community groups to ensure many more prospective sponsors can be matched with Ukrainians who need help.”
This was derided by Labour shadow housing secretary Lisa Nandy, who said: “Surely there’s a role for [Gove] to match Ukrainians with their sponsors, not just a DIY asylum scheme where all he does is take the credit.
“There’s been a lack of urgency to get people here and there’s been a lack of urgency to ensure we support them when they do.”
The UK has now awarded around 4,000 refugee visas to Ukrainians fleeing the war.
More than 2m people have fled Ukraine since the start of Russia’s invasion, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).
Poland has taken in 1.65m refugees, Hungary has taken 250,000 and Slovakia has taken around 200,000.