Ukraine war: ‘No cap’ on refugees under new UK visa scheme

Ukraine war: 'No cap' on refugees under new UK visa scheme

There will be no limit to the number of Ukrainian refugees who can live with UK host families under a new visa scheme, the government has confirmed.

It is hoped tens of thousands of displaced people will benefit from the Homes for Ukraine refugee scheme.

More details will be set out later, before a website goes live for people to express an interest in helping.

Hosts will receive £350 a month as a “thank you” from the government.

Health Secretary Sajid Javid told BBC Breakfast there would be “no cap” on the number of people who can be supported through the scheme.

“I’m pleased that we’re doing this because as a country we have a very proud record of offering sanctuary to people from wars and from conflicts,” he added.

The government has so far faced criticism – including from its own MPs – over the speed and scale of its response to the refugee crisis triggered by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Under the new scheme people in the UK will be able to nominate an individual or family to stay with them rent-free, or in another property, for at least six months.

Mr Javid said once refugees arrive they will be allowed to stay in the UK “for at least three years”.

They will have access to the NHS and other public services, and their children will be able to attend local schools.

Local authorities will also receive £10,500 in extra funding per refugee for support services – with more for children of school age.

Applications to host refugees will be made online and both hosts and refugees will be vetted.

Levelling Up Secretary Michael Gove will make a statement in Parliament later to set out further details.

Asked if he might host a Ukrainian family himself, Mr Javid said it was something he and his wife were “starting to have a conversation” about.

“Whatever I do at a personal level, I most certainly will be helping,” he added.

The first hosts and refugees will be matched this week, allowing the first Ukrainians to arrive in the UK through this route in about two weeks’ time, the BBC’s chief political correspondent Adam Fleming says.

‘Far too complicated’

Organisations such as charities and churches will eventually be able to sponsor refugees, though there is no start date for this phase of the scheme yet.

Homes for Ukraine is the second visa scheme the government has set up since the war broke out.

The first has allowed Ukrainians with an immediate or extended family member in the UK to apply for a family visa to join them.

More than 3,000 visas have so far been granted through that route, Mr Javid said.

The Home Office has defended requiring security checks on Ukrainians fleeing Russia’s invasion, saying it needs to ensure the UK helps those in genuine need, saying it has already seen people falsely claim to be Ukrainian.

Labour’s London Mayor Sadiq Khan said the UK’s plans to help those fleeing Ukraine have been “embarrassing” compared with those of other countries.

He told Good Morning Britain that people, businesses and councils were “ready to step up” and welcome refugees but the system to do so has been “far too complicated”.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer previously described the Home Office’s response as “too slow, too narrow, too mean”, while Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey said Home Secretary Priti Patel should be sacked for “incompetence, indifference and sheer inhumanity” in leading the response.

The NSPCC said it had concerns about safety checks on prospective hosts through the Homes for Ukraine scheme.

The children’s charity said it was “vital child protection is built into every stage of the government’s and local authorities’ response to this crisis”.

Putin to pay for ‘war crimes’

Asked about the bombing of a maternity and children’s hospital in the city of Mariupol last week, Mr Javid said Russia had made some 31 attacks on health facilities in Ukraine since its invasion.

“These are war crimes and Putin will be held responsible,” he said.

Justice Secretary Dominic Raab will be in the Hague on Monday to offer the UK’s support to gather evidence to prosecute Russia in the international courts, Mr Javid added.

Meanwhile, 21 Ukrainian children with cancer will shortly begin NHS treatment in the UK, the health secretary said.

The children have been given six-month visas to get them out of Ukraine quickly but Mr Javid told Sky News these would be extended “to at least three years”.

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