Ukrainian refugees fear homelessness or being forced back to war-torn country as sponsorships end

ITV News Central Correspondent Phil Brewster reports on the fears for many Ukrainian refugees in the East Midlands may have to choose between homelessness or returning to their war-torn country, just six months after arriving here.

Charities have warned that Ukrainian refugees are being forced to choose between homelessness and returning to their war-torn homeland, as their sponsorships come to an end.

Andrij Jurkiw, a volunteer at 'Renting for Ukraine' in Nottingham, said options are becoming "limited" for refugees seeking sponsorships here in the UK.

He told ITV Central: "In Nottingham, we've had around 1,700 refugees coming into the area. As I understand it, there are about 800 sponsors remaining. So options for people who are being sponsored are becoming increasingly limited."

Andrij Jurkiw told ITV Central it's difficult for refugees to secure rented accommodation

Mr Jurkiw works with Renting for Ukraine to help offer refugees a route into rented accommodation.

He said one of the difficulties refugees face is that they are unable to secure guarantors in the UK, as well as a strain on social housing and rented accommodation.

Councils have a legal obligation to house Ukrainians if they do not have anywhere to live, but some local authorities have told refugees they cannot house them when their six-month Homes for Ukraine placement ends.

Figures from the Home Office show that nearly 3,000 Ukrainian households have presented themselves as homeless to councils across the country, between the end of February and November last year.

Some 69% of those included dependent children, and the majority, 1,920, had come to the UK under the Homes for Ukraine scheme.

Under the scheme, Ukrainians and their immediate family members with no family ties to the UK were able to be sponsored by individuals or organisations who could offer them a home, such as a spare room or unoccupied residential self contained unit.

Councils were required to carry out housing and safeguarding checks to ensure accommodation was of a suitable standard and that refugees arriving in the UK were safe.

Ukrainian refugees at Ukrainian Cultural Association in Nottingham preparing special Christmas dishes for Orthodox Christmas (7th January) Credit: ITV News Central

ITV News spoke to one family who described finding accommodation with the help of Renting for Ukraine as a "miracle".

Eric Noorbakhsh and his wife, Kateria Yabilaeva, said: "90% of landlords asked for a guarantor which we didn't have."

Kateria said: "It was very important to find some flat where we can relax and just think it's our flat and we can keep in our heart.

Eric Noorbakhsh and his wife, Kateria Yabilaeva said finding a home with the help of Renting for Ukraine was a 'miracle'

"I fully accept it's my home, I hope for a long time. It's a very good feeling when you have a home."

Eric adds: "I want to express my gratitude to the British Government, to British people who supported Ukraine. They did many things for us. We are grateful for that."

However, not everyone has been as successful.

Maria was a doctor in Ukraine. However, she can't speak English, so she can't get work.

Maria, her two children at TravelLodge where they've been temporarily housed. Credit: ITV News Central

She came to Derbyshire on 21 May 2022 with her two children, aged two and three years old, and her mother-in-law, after finding a sponsor.

However, when that came to an end, Derbyshire County Council arranged for them to live in a one bedroom BnB, but her children were bitten by bed bugs.

The council has now put them in a Travelodge for 10 nights, but she doesn't know what will happen to them.

Derbyshire County Council has been approached for comment.

In a bed and breakfast in the East Midlands one child was bitten by bed bugs and the family have now been relocated for 10 nights. Credit: ITV News Central

Meanwhile, Yevheniia Pushkarenko works as an online business trainer and life coach with a company based in Ukraine and has received a guarantor through her former sponsor.

However, she cannot pass referencing as her overseas income will not be counted.

She and her daughter are now with a temporary sponsor that Renting for Ukraine managed to find for a few weeks, but the sponsor is selling the house imminently so they need to move again.

She explained: "We are living in temporary accommodation, which one English family with big hearts gave to us.

Yevheniia Pushkarenko said she has found it difficult to rent her own place

"I really appreciate everybody who is helping us, because it is not easy. But the problem is, even if you have your income, Ukrainian income, but you don't have official job here in the UK, you cannot rent your own place.

"I really wanted to have my own place because after 16 different moves, really need to have own place to work and to live.

"It's really hard because here, you cannot work - or at least you cannot come back to your previous life, to your previous level of life."

In a statement, Nottinghamshire County Council said the number of Ukrainian refugees living in temporary accommodation offered through the local housing authority is estimated to be no more than five people currently.

The county council said helping Ukrainians move into their own accommodation is a priority.

They added: "£786,000 was recently allocated to Housing Authorities in the County to assist guests with their housing needs.

"From 1st January 2023, Local Authorities will be eligible for Government tariff of £5,900 per guest, reduced from £10,500 previously received for arrivals."The Government has also recently announced that an additional housing fund of £500m will be available to develop housing stock for those fleeing conflicts (including Ukraine and Afghanistan), to provide up to 4,000 new homes by 2024.

"This comes alongside a one-off fund of £150m that will be available to provide accommodation for Ukrainians at risk of homelessness (alongside members of the general public).”

In a statement, the Department for Levelling Up said they are working across the government, with local councils, landlord and agent organisations and others to ensure Ukrainians are recieving the help they need to access housing.

It said: “Homes for Ukraine has seen 109,000 Ukrainians welcomed to the UK, thanks to the generosity of sponsors.

“We’ve provided councils with extensive funding to support arrivals and they have a duty to ensure families are not left without a roof over their heads.

"All Ukrainian arrivals can work or study and access benefits from day one and we have increased ‘thank you’ payments for sponsors to £500 a month once a guest has been here for a year.”

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