Last week there was much talk around Rye about the UK’s very slow response to the Ukrainian refugee crisis. I raised the disappointing government response with MP, Sally-Ann Hart, at her “surgery” last Friday. She explained that she had been pressing with other MPs for action.
The first news last weekend of the “Homes for Ukraine” scheme was long overdue but welcome. At first, only those fleeing the conflict who have family connections in the UK have been able to make an application via the Ukraine Family Scheme. Now, the government reports that tens of thousands of refugees will be eligible under a new route, allowing people in UK to open their homes to those seeking sanctuary.
The widened scheme will provide opportunities for individuals to help, but eventually charities, businesses and community groups will be able to register and offer accommodation and employment.
Initial details have been announced. There will be a vetting process for prospective hosts. This should allay the concerns of organisations such as the Refugee Council, as in Poland there have already been cases of traffickers targeting vulnerable refugees. Security clearance of refugees remains a priority for the security services which are watching for any hostile intelligence operatives exploiting the situation.
Hosts in the UK will have to agree to take the refugees for a minimum period – six months – and demonstrate that they meet “appropriate standards”. In return there is an offer of £350 per month to help with costs. Local authorities will also be given grants to pay for community services for every person accepted on the scheme.
We have been talking with interested parties across Rye, including the Mayor, the Foodbank and those previously involved with Covid support. There are prospective hosts in Rye willing to provide accommodation, but of course, accommodation is only the start. A range of social support and care will be needed, including help with language, vaccinations, health and care support, schooling and leisure.
We are in dialogue with Rother District. The Chief Executive has said that: “Rother District along with the other Councils and public bodies in East Sussex, are keeping a close eye on the situation, with the intention of playing our part in any national response (as we have done with the situations in both Syria and Afghanistan). Because help with language, health, social care and educational services need to be effectively arranged, it is important that all parties involved have a coordinated and agreed approach to whatever scheme is implemented.”
For those who want to register an interest to act as a host, details are here.
People can raise general questions via Rye News comments or the REACT Facebook site. @ryeact