'More appropriate matching process' urged so lone Ukrainian women not matched with single men

Lone Ukrainian women are at risk of sexual exploitation as they are matched with single men.

The UN refugee agency believes the government needs to implement a “more appropriate matching process” to ensure lone Ukrainian women are not matched with single men in the ‘Homes for Ukraine’ scheme.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has warned there are increasing reports of women feeling at risk from some of the households they are being matched with.

In a statement, a UNHCR spokesperson said: “UNHCR believes that a more appropriate matching process could be put in place by ensuring that women and women with children are matched with families or couples, rather than with single men.

“Matching done without the appropriate oversight may lead to increasing the risks women may face, in addition to the trauma of displacement, family separation and violence already experienced.”

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The warning comes after claims that women and some women accompanied by children are at risk of falling victim to sexual exploitation.

ITV News found evidence of some men in Poland advertising accommodation exclusively to single Ukrainian women.

Posing as a girl in her 20s on a Polish site, ITV News responded to adverts and one reply read: "Unfortunately, this is not a room...just a free bed... this is a big apartment... so another person will easily fit."

Another man asked: "Do you have a husband or a boyfriend in the war? Do you plan on bringing someone back here? Because I only agree to one person."

ITV News posed as a young Ukrainian woman and responded to adverts from men in Poland, as Correspondent Rupert Evelyn reports

The UNHCR said the UK government needs to implement “adequate safeguards and vetting measures to be in place against exploitation”.

It also raised concern about “repercussions should the original UK host prove a potential threat to the safety of the refugee” and the six-month duration of the scheme.

“UNHCR believes that appropriate training and information are needed to ensure that hosts make an informed decision when applying to become sponsors,” the spokesperson added.

“Housing a stranger in an extra bedroom for an extended period is not for some people sustainable.

“Local authorities already report being overwhelmed in terms of offering financial support to hosts and being able to carry out checks on a timely basis prior to the arrivals of Ukrainians."

The government has faced fierce criticism for the length of time Ukrainian refugees are having to wait before being granted a visa in the UK or to be matched with someone as part of the Homes for Ukraine sponsorship scheme.

The Home Secretary on Friday apologised “with frustration” after coming under fire over “delays” in the time it is taking for Ukrainian refugees to arrive in the UK.

But Priti Patel denied visa requirements and checks are slowing the process and causing delays, insisting the UK will “absolutely see changes in numbers” as work continues.

Around 12,000 people had arrived in the UK under Ukraine visa schemes as of Tuesday (April 5), according to Home Office figures.

Some 10,800 people had arrived under the Ukraine family scheme but only 1,200 had made it to the UK as part of the Homes for Ukraine sponsorship scheme, provisional data published on the department’s website shows.

A government spokesperson: “Attempts to exploit vulnerable people are truly despicable – this is why we have designed the Homes for Ukraine scheme to have specific safeguards in place, including robust security and background checks on all sponsors by the Home Office and local authorities.

"Councils must make at least one in-person visit to a sponsor’s property and they have a duty to make sure the guest is safe and well once they’ve arrived.”