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According to official government data, more than 100,000 Ukrainian refugees have arrived safely in Britain under two UK visa schemes. The Homes for Ukraine Scheme and Ukraine Family Scheme were emergency UK immigration routes launched to help Ukrainians fleeing their homeland following the Russian invasion in February 2022.
In a statement on its official website, the UK government thanked the British public for their ‘generosity and goodwill’. The 100,000 milestone was reached as the Homes for Ukraine scheme is expanded to allow new UK visa applications from unaccompanied children and minors under the age of 18.
Since March 2022, the British government has been working with local authorities and community groups to help them integrate Ukrainian arrivals. After listening to Ukrainian parents and working closely with the country’s government, the UK government opened the Homes for Ukraine scheme to unaccompanied children who have parental consent.
Lord Harrington, the UK’s Refugees Minister, said: “We would not be able to welcome 100,000 people from Ukraine to our shores without generous people around the country opening their doors. It is important that we recognise the selfless work of the public to help Ukrainians integrate into their communities.”
“We understand families are having to make difficult decisions to leave their homes – which is why it is important we took the time to get this right to ensure we can continue offering safety to as many Ukrainians as possible,” Lord Harrington added.
The Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, Greg Clark, echoed Harrington’s statement saying: “As 100,000 people have now arrived from Ukraine, I want to extend my thanks to everyone who has offered their homes to people in need.”
“Behind this milestone however are 100,000 stories of pain – families split apart and forced to leave their fathers, sons and brothers. That is why we want peace and security in Ukraine so that its brave people can be safe at home again,” Clark added.
Visa process now fully digital
Ukraine specific UK visa processes are now fully digital, according to the UK government’s official statement, enabling applicants to apply online, submit their biometrics – including photo uploading – through an app and provide evidence of their rights to services and benefits, such as Universal Credit.
Following recent changes, including the simplification of the application form and boosting UK immigration staff numbers, at its peak, approximately 500 people were processing UK visa applications submitted by Ukrainians. The UK government aims to process applications as quickly as possible, aiming for within 48 hours where possible.
From day one of being welcomed into the UK, Ukrainians have the right to work, access to benefits and public services – including education and healthcare – with the same rights as UK nationals. This will remain the case for Ukrainians who wish to remain in Britain beyond their homeland’s conflict with Russia.
Combined national effort
The UK government statement said: “A combined national effort has driven the schemes forward – with devolved governments, charities, faith groups, businesses, councils and communities all working together to provide much needed support to those arriving from Ukraine.”
“We welcome offers of employment from businesses for those Ukrainians arriving in the UK and who are ready to work and have set up a dedicated team in the Department for Work and Pensions to support employers offering work,” the statement added.
Under the Homes for Ukraine scheme, it’s understood that the government is providing £10,500 per person to local authorities, which will enable them to support families in rebuilding their lives and integrate into communities.
Within the £10,500, there is reportedly a £200 one-off payment that councils will provide to each Ukrainian guest upon arrival, plus a £350 monthly ‘thank you’ payment issued to sponsors to cover the cost of hosting Ukrainians.
Meanwhile, the government continues to work closely with the UK’s voluntary and community sector who are supporting the Homes for Ukraine scheme through things like matching services being operated by recognised providers to help more people from the Ukraine find safe and sustainable matches with UK sponsors.
New UK visa schemes
Amid the war, orchestrated by Russian President Vladimir Putin, the UK government has launched three new UK visa schemes to help those fleeing Ukraine. Already, 104,000 Ukrainians have arrived safely in the UK – 31,300 via the Ukraine Family Scheme and a further 72,700 through the Ukraine Sponsorship Scheme.
Initially, the launch of the Homes for Ukraine scheme in March caused confusion with children or minors under the age of 18 ineligible to apply unless they were applying with, or planning to reunite in the UK with, a parent or legal guardian. However, this wasn’t clearly communicated.
As such around 1,000 under 18s applied for the scheme. The UK government has since carefully navigated around the concerns raised about allowing children to apply for the Homes for Ukraine scheme without a parent or legal guardian.
Having worked closely with the Ukraine government and local councils children and minors under the age of 18 will now be allowed to apply for the scheme, provided that they can provide proof of parental consent. Proof must be verified and approved by the Ukraine government.
Meanwhile, extensive sponsor checks will be undertaken in the UK by local authorities ahead of any UK visa being granted. Councils will have the power to halt any sponsor arrangements they deem to be unsuitable.
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