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World News

Christian charity head calls for longer-term strategy to accommodate Ukrainian refugees

by Donna Birrell

A Christian social entrepreneur is calling for a longer-term strategy to accommodate refugees from Ukraine after some host families said they won't continue the arrangement after the minimum six month period. 

The government's Homes for Ukraine scheme was launched in March and since then has seen over 75,000 refugees from Ukraine arrive in the UK and be placed with a host family. 
But new figures from the Office for National Statistics show that a quarter of sponsors (26%) won't continue in the longer term, leaving question marks over where the refugees will find accommodation.

Dr Krish Kandiah is founder of the Sanctuary Project which helps co-ordinate hosts with Ukrainian refugees. He's been speaking to Premier about the situation :

"The bigger picture for me is we're in the middle of history. Over 110,000 Ukrainians have come to the UK in the last four months, most of those - around 75,000 - are staying in people's homes and it's just fantastic. We've never seen a response like this in the UK. Even in the Second World War, we were only talking about 10,000 refugee children coming to flee from the Nazis. So this is history. The fact that maybe a quarter of those that are hosting can't continue after six months, it's understandable.

"There is the cost of living crisis, people are thinking they're responding to a crisis, and therefore, they've moved bedrooms, they've asked older children not to come home, they've postponed holidays. So I really understand it. But the bigger picture is, there is something fantastic happening."

Hosts currently receive £350 a month but the ONS found four in ten might host for longer if more financial help was available.

"I think there's a whole bunch of issues about move-on housing," explains Dr Kandiah. "We need to find new private rental landlord accommodation in order to help people start to rebuild their lives, which is better for them anyway, to at some stage live independently. An important way that we recover from trauma is to begin to make decisions for ourselves and have a little bit of independence."

Dr Kandiah says he has met the Refugee Minister this week to discuss a shortage of social housing. He says there are around a million people from Britain already in the queue for appropriate housing  and that it's an issue that the government needs to resolve :

"I don't think we should have thought it was short term. Wars are prolongued and the amount of devastation and destruction that has been wrought in Ukraine is unbelievable. According to the United Nations High Commission for Refugees, the average time someone spends in a refugee camp is 19 years which is unthinkable. I'm not saying it's going to be 19 years, but we should never have thought it would be short."

Dr Kandiah believes that overall the Homes for Ukraine is proving successful with six out of ten sponsors happy to accommodate their Ukrainian guests for more than six months :
 "We responded right in the situation, we needed to do an evacuation and people have been incredibly generous opening their homes. But the government is aware and we're all aware, this can't be something that lasts forever.

"So we do need that kind of interim housing to come online soon.

"We're talking to the private landlord sector to see what they can be doing. I think it's going to be a combination of civil society, business and the government coming together to find a solution.

"There's a lot of goodwill so I'm confident we'll be able to do something."


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