Responses to the war in Ukraine

See comments also here: QARN members’ thoughts on Community Sponsorship

Updated 25 May 2022: LocalGov: MPs warn Ukrainian refugees are being forced into B&Bs

MPs have written to the Government to raise concerns about the Homes for Ukraine scheme in light of reports of Ukrainian refugees being forced into temporary accommodation.

Clive Betts, chair of the ‘Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (LUHC) Committee’, has written to Lord Harrington, minister for refugees, Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, concerning recent reports of problems with the operation of the scheme.

These problems include delays in criminal records checks for UK hosts and of accounts of Ukrainian refugees being forced into temporary accommodation such as B&Bs.

Mr Betts said: ‘There continue to be concerns about how the Homes for Ukraine scheme is operating, about the speed in helping refugees arrive, around delays in DBS [Disclosure and Barring Service criminal record] and accommodation checks, and concerns that Ukrainians who have arrived in the UK are finding themselves homeless after their initial place fell through or family members could not host them.’

Mr Betts’ latest letter follows an earlier missive, sent 4 May, which expressed ‘significant concerns’ about support for Ukrainian refugees and for local authorities.

‘There is a glaring disconnect in the current matching process which means the hospitality being offered by sponsors is not being taken up,’ Mr Betts said today.

‘The Government needs to up its game and speed up data sharing with local authorities so they can match refugees to suitable sponsors as quickly as possible and so councils can line up the resources and services to support those fleeing from Ukraine.’

The LUHC Committee has invited Lord Harrington to give evidence to the Committee at a public hearing in June.

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Levelling Up, Housing and Communities and Committee

Letter to Lord Harrington, Minister for Refugees:

[…] It has been reported that hundreds of Ukrainian refugees have been placed in temporary bridging accommodation because their sponsors were found to have criminal records or their accommodation was found to be unsuitable. It is our understanding that visas are granted after initial security checks by the Home Office, but that DBS and accommodation checks to be carried out by councils can be made after a visa has been granted or after the guests have arrived in the UK.

Read the full letter here:

Updated 7 April 2022: iNews: A Ukrainian refugee scheme based on sympathy will fail, just as it did for Syrians

We’ve lost sight of our best argument to anti-refugee campaigners: refugees have rights under international and domestic law, and in tandem, the UK government has duties to refugees

Watching reports of the “wilkommenskultur” response to the war in Ukraine, my inner cynic has made a reappearance. There have simply been too many peaks and troughs in the discourse regarding refugees over the last few years for me to believe that the generous reception will last.

It was less than two months after the Taliban takeover that the UK Home Office opened the door for deportations back to Afghanistan once more. Similarly, the conversation surrounding the reception of non-European refugees has become so poisonous that you would be forgiven for forgetting that it wasn’t so long ago that Syrians caught in the crossfires of war were at first met with public sympathy, funding, and political engagement.

In late August 2015, in response to the growing numbers of Syrians seeking refuge in Europe, Angela Merkel appealed to the German populace: “Our freedom, our rule of law, our economic strength, how we live together – this is what people who have experienced persecution, war, and despotism dream of.

The next week, Emmanuel Macron took a different tack, presenting the large caseload of asylum seekers as an “economic opportunity”. Meanwhile, David Cameron launched a Syrian resettlement scheme before parliament with the following exhortation: “It’s absolutely right that Britain should fulfil its moral responsibility.”

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Updated 6 April 2022: Politics Home: Refugees Minister Admits Rollout Of Ukrainian Schemes Has Been “Embarrassing”

Lord Harrington, the refugees minister, has described the rollout of the Ukrainian refugee schemes as “embarrassing” after being inundated with calls from people who were struggling to get Ukrainians into the UK through the systems set up by the government.

Harrington, who Boris Johnson brought in towards the end of last month to help implement the schemes, on Tuesday night admitted the Home Office and the wider government had not been “geared up” to deal with the volume of refugee applications, during a phone-in hosted by LBC’s Iain Dale.

He characterised the system as “a slow and bureaucratic process, with sending information to different places, waiting for an answer, sending it, waiting for an answer”, and didn’t disagree when a caller described it as a “disgrace”.

Harrington, who is a former Conservative MP, spoke to a Ukrainian woman who had been stuck in Paris since 24 March waiting for a UK visa with her niece and 18-month-old baby, after they applied through the family scheme. She described it as an “appalling situation”.

Responding, Harrington said “ten days of waiting is not acceptable” and that he wouldn’t make excuses, as to do so would be “pathetic”, adding “we know things are not good”.

Politics Home: Downing Street Stunned By Refugee Minister’s Attack On Ukraine Scheme Rollout

Refugees minister Richard Harrington’s scathing assessment of his own government’s efforts to take in Ukrainian refugees was the sign of growing frustration in Whitehall over the slow progress of the rollout.

Lord Harrington, the former Conservative MP who Boris Johnson brought in to help implement refugee schemes late last month, stunned senior government figures on Tuesday night when in an LBC phone-in session, he said he was embarrassed by the roll out up to now. 

Ministers have launched two schemes to allow refugees to obtain UK visas following Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. One route is open to people with immediate family already living in the UK, while the second route, called Homes for Ukraine, offers British people the opportunity to ‘sponsor’ refugees to come and live with them for a minimum period of six months.

In a series of frank remarks, Harrington said “we know things are not good”, and described the schemes as initially being “slow and bureaucratic”. While he insisted the process had been improved, he also did not disagree with a caller who characterised the schemes as a “disgrace”.

The remarks went down badly in Downing Street, PoliticsHome understands. One senior government figure said “everyone was confused” by Harrington’s strongly-worded criticism.

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Updated 28 March 2022: Guardian: ‘False hope’: refugee charity attacks UK’s Homes for Ukraine scheme

[SNN signatory] Positive Action in Housing says visas not being granted and refugees seeking sponsors are putting themselves in danger.

A charity that is helping Ukrainian refugees trying to come to the UK has said no visas have been granted to those it is supporting, nearly a fortnight after a government scheme was launched.

The head of Positive Action in Housing, Robina Qureshi, said the government’s Homes for Ukraine scheme had given people “false hope” and amounted to a “gimmick”.

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17 March 2022: City of Sanctuary: Things to consider before applying to sponsor a refugee

The enormous amount of interest in hosting Ukrainian refugees is hugely heartening. We are a nation of kind, generous and compassionate people.

Hosting is a significant commitment, and we urge people to properly reflect on their ability to take on such a responsibility.

People seeking sanctuary are just like you. If you had been forced to leave behind your home, family and everything that was familiar, what would you want from a hosting situation? People are individuals, so their support needs will vary considerable.

We want all potential hosts to be able to offer empowering and trauma sensitive support and we will work with partners and our Local Authority network as much as we can to make sure this happens.

Whilst we appreciate that at the moment we do not have all the information hosts might need, we felt it is important that potential hosts start to consider the following:

Read more here:

[…] There are plenty of ways to help without hosting, click here to find out more.

14 March 2022: The National: UK Government slammed for ‘delaying tactics’ with refugees by charity boss

Charity head slams UK Government’s ‘delaying tactics’ in refugee response 2 comments

THE UK Government is “using the same delaying tactics as was used by governments in WW2 against Jewish people fleeing the Holocaust” in their response to Ukrainian refugees, a prominent homelessness and human rights charity has argued.

Responding to the recent unveiling of Housing Secretary Michael Gove’s Homes for Ukrainians initiative – which will pay British families £350 a month to take in those who have fled the Russian invasion of Ukraine – Positive Action in Housing director Robina Qureshi commented: “The minister is giving false hope to Ukrainians who are now contacting us about this scheme. But that is not where attention should be. 

“Room for Refugees is the oldest running hosting network – pioneered in Glasgow and now operates all over the UK. It takes time to develop and cannot be set up overnight. Our hosts have sheltered over 4,000 refugees from Syria, Afghanistan, Yemen, Palestine, Eritrea and Ukraine. It’s based on love and pastoral support. Not money.

“We have been here with previous refugee crises – Afghan and Syrian – the warm words never meet reality on the ground. So we are sure what is happening here. Gove’s Homes for Ukrainians scheme will let a trickle of Ukrainians through – that’s precisely what the government wants in this latest refugee crisis – a trickle.

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The Government has a website for those who wish to offer a home to Ukrainians: Phase One of the scheme will allow sponsors in the UK to nominate a named Ukrainian or a named Ukrainian family to stay with them in their home or in a separate property.

The responsibility for matching people in need with offers of help has been given to RESET who have been commissioned by the Home Office to deliver the UK’s Community Sponsorship support.


13 March 2022: Sabir Zazai @sabir_zazai

So, if you host Ukrainian refugees, the government will pay you £350 but if you dare accommodated an Afghan woman or another refugee fleeing another dreadful conflict who arrived through the irregular routes, you could end up with a criminal record? How is that correct?

The government must invest in its own compassion, not the public goodwill. None of these schemes could be an alternative for the rights that people have under the Refugee Convention to seek sanctuary and for the state to help them rebuild lives in safety and dignity.

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Guardian: Gove bids to end Ukrainian refugee chaos with £350 ‘cash for rooms’ offer

Patel humiliated after fortnight of failure, while experts warn the accommodation scheme carries risks

Enver Solomon, chief executive of the Refugee Council, said the success of the scheme would depend on the fine detail, such as whether households would be given support to look after inevitably traumatised and vulnerable refugees, the vast majority of whom will be women and children.

“These people are going to be highly traumatised and disoriented and you can’t just put them in people’s homes without any expert casework support,” he said.Advertisement

“It’s a bit like asking people to become foster carers without having a social worker in place. There needs to be good quality specialist support otherwise it risks relationships breaking down. In the long term they will need their own stable accommodation as they may not be able to return to their homeland for a few years.”

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12 March 2022: Immigration Rules

Immigration Rules as they stand offer the Home Office the opportunity to offer Temporary Protection in the event of a mass influx of displaced persons – you can ask the question through your MP for the Home Office: when they will act on this rule:

Immigration Rules part 11A: temporary protection

For the purposes of paragraphs 355 to 356B, “Temporary Protection Directive” means Council Directive 2001/55/EC of 20 July 2001 regarding the giving of temporary protection by Member States in the event of a mass influx of displaced persons.

Grant of temporary protection

355. An applicant for temporary protection will be granted temporary protection if the Secretary of State is satisfied that:
(i) the applicant is in the United Kingdom or has arrived at a port of entry in the United Kingdom; and
(ii) the applicant is a person entitled to temporary protection as defined by, and in accordance with, the Temporary Protection Directive; and
(iii) the applicant does not hold an extant grant of temporary protection entitling him to reside in another Member State of the European Union. This requirement is subject to the provisions relating to dependants set out in paragraphs 356 to 356B and to any agreement to the contrary with the Member State in question; and
(iv) the applicant is not excluded from temporary protection under the provisions in paragraph 355A.

355A. An applicant or a dependant may be excluded from temporary protection if:
(i) there are serious reasons for considering that:
(a) he has committed a crime against peace, a war crime, or a crime against humanity, as defined in the international instruments drawn up to make provision in respect of such crimes; or
(b) he has committed a serious non-political crime outside the United Kingdom prior to his
application for temporary protection; or
(c) he has committed acts contrary to the purposes and principles of the United Nations, or
(ii) there are reasonable grounds for regarding the applicant as a danger to the security of the United Kingdom or, having been convicted by a final judgment of a particularly serious crime, to be a danger to the community of the United Kingdom.
Consideration under this paragraph shall be based solely on the personal conduct of the applicant concerned. Exclusion decisions or measures shall be based on the principle of proportionality.

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Quakers in Britain: Responding to the war in Ukraine

This page outlines our response to the war and offers links to events and resources from our partners.

In a statement on 24 February Quakers in Britain strongly condemned the invasion of Ukraine and called for an end to the fighting.

In the period leading up to the war, Quakers in Britain had issued statements on 26 January and on 22 February, calling for a peaceful resolution of the crisis. Peace Lead Daniel Jakopovich wrote a blog which outlined ideas for peace action. Peace Education Coordinator Ellis Brooks wrote a blog on how peace education can respond to the Ukraine crisis.

Northern Friends Peace Board compiled a list of resources to increase understanding of the crisis and advocate peaceable action.

In collaboration with others in the peace movement, we have been developing a plan of action to respond to this ongoing tragic situation in a way which promotes peace.

Meeting for Sufferings of Britain Yearly Meeting gathered on 6 March 2022 and reflected on the war. Head of Witness and Worship Oliver Robertson prepared ministry for this meeting.

Quaker representatives on the Northern Friends Peace Board gathered on 5 March, also reflecting on the war, and on what should be the principles guiding the response to it. A report from this meeting is available here.

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11 March 2022: Rethinking Security: Building from Ukraine: From Solidarity to Systemic Change

The Russian invasion of Ukraine has elicited unprecedented international condemnation as well as expressions of solidarity with its resisters. Richard Reeve suggests six ways that this war compels the UK, Europe and the world to take action and move from selective solidarity to global systemic change.

Many people feel powerless in the face of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Many feel resigned to the rearmament and division of our continent. But saying never again to aggression and terror such as is being visited on the people of Ukraine will be about more than standing up to the Putin regime and compelling Russian troops to go home.

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10 March 2022: Birmingham Schools of Sanctuary @BrumSchOfSanc We are all shocked and horrified at the events in Ukraine. But please don’t forget the people of Yemen (“the world’s worst humanitarian crisis”), the 5 million children facing starvation in Afghanistan, the situation in Syria…..

Updated 10 March 2022: Migrant Voice: War of words

Words heal, explain, inform, enlighten. They can also hurt, muddle, mislead, misinform. And as reactions to the 2 million – and still rising – Ukrainian refugees show, they can reveal.

Many responses have been heartwarming and helpful: scores of Germans holding placards offering rooms in their homes to people they’ve never met; Poland taking in 1.2 million refugees by 8 March backed up by small cash payments for each newcomer from a specially created £1.3 billion fund. 

Others have been slow, confused, and ill-considered. Sadly, the British Government has been among the laggards, displaying a mindset shaped by years of “hostile environment” policies – though the public has already donated £100 million. 

A few responses around the world have been outright disgusting: like the leaked messages from a Brazilian MP on a humanitarian visit who made grossly inappropriate remarks about Ukrainian women. 

Outright misogyny, racism and hate need to be challenged and condemned, of course. But we also need to call out subtler expressions of prejudice.

It is striking, for example, how many White commentators, pundits, journalists and politicians have made a point of viewing – and treating – fleeing Ukrainians as worthy of help because they are “like us”.

In the words of the Bulgarian Prime Minister: “These people are Europeans. … These people are intelligent, they are educated people. … This is not the refugee wave we have been used to…”

Similarly, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban said that one doesn’t have to be a rocket scientist to see the difference between “masses arriving from Muslim regions in hope of a better life in Europe” and helping Ukrainian refugees who have come to Hungary because of the war.

Such comments reveal more about the speaker than the people spoken about. They set the parameters and tone for debate about refugees and migrants, they prepare the ground for actions and policies based not on shared humanity but on perceived (and absurd) differences between intelligent, educated White people and ignorant, blinkered Others.

In Britain, there’s another “gap”, between acceptable West Europeans and less acceptable East Europeans. Praising Home Secretary Priti Patel for refusing to offer asylum to all Ukrainians fleeing war, an MP told Parliament that his constituents had already “done our bit in terms of migration from eastern Europe”.

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6 March 2022: Euronews: Nigerian student says he faced discrimination while fleeing Ukraine 

Alexander Somto Orah, a 25-year-old Nigerian student, says he faced discrimination when trying to flee the war in Ukraine.

“The first discrimination was in Kyiv,” he said.

“They were allowing only women and children. I said, ‘OK. That’s fine, but I don’t see you taking the other African women and the other Middle Eastern women, they are pregnant’.”

The war made me realise that if there are human beings, there are some that are regarded differently from others. I want other Africans to learn to speak up. That’s all.

Alexander Somto Orah 25-year-old Nigerian student

When Alexander finally made it to the Polish border by foot, he says initially he was turned away.

“A man in black came and told us, ‘Indians, Africans, and Middle Easterners should leave here and go to another border,’ which is the Romanian border,” he said.

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Updated 5 March 2022: Byline Times: UKRAINE’S REFUGEES& Racialised Borders

The Russian invasion of Ukraine has laid bare the contradictory position of central and eastern Europeans within the racial hierarchies that structure Europe’s border regimes, argue Dr Charlotte Galpin and Professor Sara Jones

Since Russia invaded Ukraine, conflicting ideas about the country in the UK and across the West have demonstrated central and eastern Europe’s ambiguous position and the continued impact of 20th Century European history. 

The borders drawn on our maps have changed significantly in post-socialist Europe. A number of countries that were previously part of the Soviet Union, or so-called ‘satellite states’, now form part of the European Union, or – like Ukraine – have association agreements in place. 

But racialised identities and imagined borders, while in flux, continue to be shaped by historical memories. 

In the second half of 2021, refugees fleeing violence in Syria, Afghanistan and Iraqi Kurdistan began to appear at the Polish-Belarus border, inspired by false promises of safe passage to the EU by Belarussian authorities. The response of Poland’s Government was to violently push them back into Belarus. The refugees have since been trapped at the border in freezing conditions and denied access to humanitarian aid. 

There was a precedent for this hostile reaction. In response to the wave of refugees coming to Europe from Syria in 2015, Hungary’s Government erected a 150-kilometre-long barbed wire fence along its border to Serbia.

We might assume that these are typical knee-jerk reactions of ethnonationalist and anti-immigration governments that have risen to power in several central and eastern European countries in recent years – notably the Law and Justice leadership in Poland and Fidesz in Hungary. 

However, Putin’s war in Ukraine shows that the situation is more complex.

Following the Russian invasion, the Polish Government almost immediately opened its borders to Ukrainians, promising to accept one million refugees.

Other central and eastern European countries followed suit – including Romania, Moldova, Hungary and Romania.

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3 March 2022: Times: War in Ukraine: Foreign students face ‘discrimination from border guards’

When Aras, a 30-year-old languages student, got to the border crossing between Ukraine and Poland, he was convinced that he had reached safety.

After a three-day trip without food or water and a 20-mile walk, the young man from the autonomous Kurdistan region of northern Iraq was moments away from leaving the Russian invasion of Ukraine behind. Or so he thought.

Instead, Aras and his friend Balen were turned back at two separate crossings before being admitted at a third.

Like other non-Ukrainian refugees, the Kurdish men described being passed over and pushed to the back of the masses as the border guards allegedly favoured Ukrainian citizens.

“We saw that they had more respect for them,” Aras said as he sat inside a welcome centre

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Yahoo: Ukraine government addresses racism faced by Black people fleeing Russian attacks

The Ukraine government has acknowledged the racist abuse that Black people have been subjected to while trying to flee from Russian attacks in their country.

Scores of African and Asian refugees in Ukraine have told of being blocked at border points as they attempt to make crossings to safety.

Speaking to The Independent on Sunday, Osarumen, a father-of-three, said he, his family members and other refugees were told to disembark a bus about to cross the border on Saturay and told, “No blacks”. Despite challenging the driver and military officers’ orders, they were ejected from the vehicle.

“In all of my years as an activist, I have never seen anything like this,” he said. “When I look into the eyes of those who are turning us away, I see bloodshot racism; they want to save themselves and they are losing their humanity in the process. I cannot imagine a scenario where white Ukranians would ever be denied asylum so how they’re treating us is unwarranted. It’s baseless. We are all escaping so let’s push a common thread.”

Dmytro Kuleba, the country’s foreign minister, addressed this scourge of discrimination in a statement posted to Twitter on Tuesday night.

“Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has affected Ukrainians and non-citizens in many devastating ways,” he said.

“Africans seeking evacuation are our friends and need to have equal opportunities to return to their home countries safely. Ukraine’s government spares no effort to solve the problem.”

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