A Nottinghamshire family who are seeking to host Ukrainian refugees into their home have made contact with a mum and daughter for the first time. After days of learning more about the process and awaiting a response to their application – the family’s humanitarian initiative seems closer to becoming reality.
It all started at the beginning of March, when a family in Gedling decided they could offer sanctuary to Ukrainian refugees. Home Secretary Priti Patel told the House of Commons that there will be a “humanitarian sponsorship pathway” created to enable Ukrainians who do not have family ties in the UK to match with “individuals, charities businesses and community groups”.
Shortly after the announcement, the Nottinghamshire family – who want to remain anonymous – began awaiting further details of what they needed to do to sign-up for the proposed route into the UK. At the time, the family’s dad who works in education, said: “It wasn’t a long conversation really. We have the space and we want to help provide someone with a safe place until, hopefully, they can return to Ukraine.”
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He went on to say: “We were moved to tears by the kindness of people in Germany. People were going to the train station with a sign to say how many people they could take home, and then just greeting them off the trains arriving from the east. We know it won’t be as straight forward as that here due to the visa criteria but we have to try.”
They have been in contact with several charities asking to be put on any lists of host households offerings. They have also written to their MP to express their anger at the response by the UK government to the plight of Ukrainian refugees.
Speaking of his frustration around the process, the dad added: “The waiting is very frustrating. Watching the scenes from Ukraine on the news, with women and newborn babies being carried out of a bombed-out hospital, we feel so powerless. Even just being able to start the process of sponsoring someone or speaking with a charity who is able to look for hosts would be better, there is still no word on the scheme.”
The situation has changed for the better when the Gedling family and others willing to help Ukrainians were given green light in an update from the Government. According to reports, the sponsored humanitarian refugee route will grant Ukrainians without family links leave to stay in the UK for an initial 12 months, in which they will be entitled to work, claim benefits and access public services.
The Gedling dad said this is “encouraging news”, adding: “It appears to be saying individuals can apply themselves rather than going through a charity or council, which might speed up the process. Obviously we understand people need to be checked and vetted to make sure refugees are not put at risk of further harm, but we’d hope we would meet any criteria around that.
“I hope the process is as streamlined and efficient as it can be, often with this sort of thing recently what the government announces will happen, and the reality is quite different. We told our children last night that we might have people who have had to leave their homes due to war stay with us. Our eldest who is nearly seven said: ‘We can look after them here, they will be okay with us’.”
After weeks of criticism of the government’s response to the refugee crisis, the Levelling Up Secretary Michael Gove has finally announced a “Homes for Ukraine” scheme – and families who welcome Ukrainian refugees into their home for at least six months rent-free will receive a £350-a-month “thank you” from the government. The Gedling dad added: “The £350 a month is a good step although we’d decided we would commit to covering anything ourselves anyway. But the website is not live yet, at least I can’t find it. And it sounds like we still need to go out and find specific Ukrainians we want to help. Obviously with social media and so many charities involved, we can probably do this, but that seems such an extra barrier.”
The family submitted an application through Opora, a system which matches refugees to sponsors. It also allows the parties to share basic details about themselves and swap contact details. When the family were awaiting a response, the dad said: “We’ve sent a message and will now just have to wait. It is a strange feeling to be looking through names and personal circumstances on a webpage and evaluating which people you think you might take in. All of them are in such dire. And it feels like now we’ve approached someone we should not try anyone else for at least a day or so until we hear back. We hope we can find someone to help. My feelings of helplessness over this incomprehensible conflict have been so upsetting.”
On March 17 night however the family were finally able to speak with the Ukrainian parent and child they found through Opora network. The Nottingham family has then submitted an application for the mum and daughter to come to the UK under the Homes for Ukraine scheme.
The process took more than three hours and needed a lot of documentary details for both sides. Fortunately, the Ukrainian mum was able to gather her documents before she left. The dad of the family from Nottingham filled in the application for both the mum and the daughter.
He said: “I can see why it has been called a DIY asylum service by charities. All the effort and emphasis is placed on the individuals to complete the application. I suppose if that means I could do it today for them, in three hours, then fair enough. It will be extremely hard for some people and I hope the people reviewing these are sympathetic to the situation”. They have been in daily contact ever since on WhatsApp, and they have also started preparations to make two bedrooms suitable for the Ukrainian pair.
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