Homes for Ukraine refugee scheme launches in UK

The government has launched its Homes for Ukraine site for those wanting to host a refugee, with 43,800 signing up in the first five hours.

Housing and Communities Secretary Michael Gove said the UK had a history of “supporting the most vulnerable during their darkest hours”.

He said there would be no limit to how many Ukrainians could enter the UK under the visa sponsorship scheme.

Each household housing a refugee will be offered £350 a month, tax-free.

They will not be expected to provide food and living expenses but can choose to offer this.

People who wish to offer a rent-free space in their home or a separate residence, for at least six months, can register their interest online.

They will be able to individually sponsor a Ukrainian national’s visa from Friday. Those initial applications will rely on the applicant knowing a named individual from Ukraine they want to help.

But Ukrainian refugees with no family or other links to the UK can and will be hosted as part of the scheme, Mr Gove said.

He said the sponsorship scheme was initially only between people who are already known to each other so it gets “up and running as soon as possible”.

The scheme will be expanded with the support of charities, community groups and churches who can help with matching refugees to hosts.

No time scale has been announced for when this will happen but Mr Gove said it would expand “rapidly”.

The government has faced criticism – including from its own MPs – over the speed and scale of its response to the refugee crisis triggered by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Almost three million people have fled Ukraine since Vladimir Putin ordered the Russian invasion nearly three weeks ago.

Mr Gove had said the scheme was open to nationals and residents of Ukraine, but his department later clarified that those eligible were Ukrainian nationals and immediate family members who had been resident prior to 1 January.