Homes For Ukraine: Welcome To Britain?

Over 10 million people are thought to have fled their homes in Ukraine because of the Russian invasion, with more than four million seeking refuge in other countries. 

The UK government's Homes for Ukraine scheme allows anyone to nominate a Ukrainian - or whole family - to live with them rent free for six months. With 200,000 people signed up to take part, our reporter Paul Brand meets the Ukrainians who have already arrived; the hosts they are living with and others who are still waiting desperately for news.

One family who have been granted a visa, and are now living in North London, is Katya and her 6 year-old son Kolya. They’re staying with Gemma and her family and settling into their new home.

“I appreciate it is a big thing and everyone says, ‘Oh it’s really amazing what you're doing.’ And I kind of feel more embarrassed about that because it was just my way of helping. I just wanted to give a family a roof over their heads and safety away from all the fighting.” - Gemma

In other cases, entire communities have been stepping in to help. Tetiana, her husband Andrii, their weeks old baby Mark, and their pet labrador Bella have all been supported by a community group - Highland Perthshire Welcomes Ukraine. 

The Perthshire community has applied for dozens of visas and with fewer than 2,000 Scottish residents, the rural town of Aberfeldy may soon be home to many Ukrainian refugees.

“The Russian Army started bombing our train and we woke up at three in the morning because the train started shaking and the explosions were all around the train. So, you know, you're nowhere, it's dark, it's night and somewhere in the forest or fields and you have the baby in your hands and a dog with you. Where will you go? That was the worst. That was the scariest part.” -Tetiana

Tetiana waited weeks for her visa. A month after she applied, the family finally received their visas and hope to be in the UK very soon.

The government has been accused of not matching the generosity of the public, with many Ukrainians waiting weeks for visas. So far the government has issued around 70,000 visas. 

With the Homes for Ukraine scheme, there is also a question of what happens if the host pulls out or gets disqualified. 

“Already we've seen cases elsewhere in London of those matches breaking down. And local authorities or charities having to step in, find hotels for families to live in for the meantime and then work out another plan. It's a wonderful thing that communities are stepping in and opening their homes, but there needs to be a lot more support from the government in order to make sure those matches work.” - Leyla Williams, West London Welcome

The Home Office told ITV Tonight:

In response to Putin’s barbaric invasion we have launched one of the fastest and biggest visa schemes in UK history. In just over a month, around 71,800 visas have been issued so people can rebuild their lives in the UK. The Home Office is aware some applicants have been waiting over a month for their applications to be progressed or an outcome to be communicated. We acknowledge that this is unacceptable and we are working to resolve this and continue to speed up the processing of applications.

“We are now processing thousands of visas a day – this shows the changes made to streamline the service are working and we’ll continue to build on this success so we can speed up the process even further.

Homes for Ukraine: Welcome to Britain? will air on Thursday 28th April on ITV at 8:30pm.

Useful Websites:

Refugees At Home 

Sanctuary Foundation

Room for Refugees

West London Welcome

Homes for Ukraine

Refugee Action