London: Over 1,00,000 people and organisations from across the United Kingdom have registered on the new ‘Homes for Ukraine’ online platform. They are offering rent-free accommodation to Ukrainians fleeing the war zone with Russia. The programme was launched by the British government Monday.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson welcomed the ‘fantastic’ response to the new scheme. It offers the British public 350-pound a month tax-free for housing Ukrainian refugees for a minimum of six months.
“Thanks to the generosity of the British public we’ve received over 100K expressions of interest from individuals and organisations so far in our ‘Homes for Ukraine’ scheme,” the Department for Levelling Up, Housing & Communities announced Tuesday on Twitter.
The UK-based hosts will be matched up with Ukrainian individuals or families from Friday onwards. The first refugees are expected to be housed under the scheme by next week.
“It’s fantastic that over 1,00,000 people and organisations have recorded their interest in supporting Ukrainians fleeing the war through the Homes for Ukraine scheme,” said Johnson. “Thank you to everyone across the country who has stepped up to offer their help so far,” he said.
The scheme was announced Monday in the House of Commons by UK Housing and Communities Secretary Michael Gove. He said the new route draws on the ‘enormous goodwill and generosity of the British public’, and Britain’s history of supporting the vulnerable in their hour of need.
“We took in refugees fleeing Hitler’s Germany, those fleeing repression in Idi Amin’s Uganda and of course those who fled the atrocities of the Balkan wars. More recently we have offered support to those fleeing persecution in Syria, Afghanistan and Hong Kong. And we’re doing so again with ‘Homes for Ukraine’,” Gove said in Parliament.
Under the sponsorship scheme, individuals acting as sponsors will be able to nominate a named Ukrainian individual or family to stay with them rent-free in their home, or in a separate property. Sponsors won’t be required to know them in advance – they might find them through posts on social media or otherwise.
There will be no limit on the number of refugees who can come to the United Kingdom through this route. They will be given three years leave to remain in the UK, with the right to work and access public services.
Applications would be made online, with sponsors being vetted and refugees having to go through security checks. “We want to minimise bureaucracy and make the process as straightforward as possible while also doing everything we can to ensure the safety of all involved,” Gove informed.
In a later phase, organisations such as charities and churches will also be able to sponsor refugees, though there is no start date for this yet.
More than 2.5 million people are estimated to have fled Ukraine to escape Russian attacks.