Group of 48 Ukrainian orphans evacuated from war-torn country by Scottish charity will travel to UK, Priti Patel says, after the government was accused of ‘obstructing’ their arrival
- Children were taken out of Ukraine and into Poland by the Dnipro Kids charity
- They have now been given the green light to travel to Britain, Priti Patel said
- Comes after SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford said the Home Office was the ‘only obstacle’ to bringing the children to the safety of the UK
A group of Ukrainian orphans evacuated from their war-torn country by a Scottish charity can travel to the UK, the Home Secretary has confirmed, a day after the government was criticised for ‘obstructing’ their arrival.
Priti Patel said that the 48 children, who were taken out of Ukraine and into Poland by the Dnipro Kids charity after Russia invaded, have been given the green light to travel to Britain.
It comes after SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford raised their plight in the House of Commons on Wednesday, saying then that the Home office was the ‘only obstacle’ to bringing them to the safety of the UK.
Priti Patel said that the 48 children, who were taken out of Ukraine and into Poland by the Dnipro Kids charity after Russia invaded, have been given the green light to travel to Britain
Dnipro Kids, which was established by fans of Hibernian Football Club, took the children, aged from six to 17, from its orphanage in Dnipro in the wake of the Russian invasion
On Thursday, Ms Patel said: ‘It is deeply troubling that children from the charity Dnipro Kids have been caught up in Putin’s brutal invasion of Ukraine.
‘I have been working directly with the Ukrainian government and asked for their permission to bring these children to the UK.
‘I am extremely grateful to the authorities in Ukraine, who have now confirmed to me that the children can come here.’
She added: ‘We are working urgently with Poland to ensure the children’s swift arrival to the UK.’
Dnipro Kids, which was established by fans of Hibernian Football Club, took the children, aged from six to 17, from its orphanage in Dnipro in the wake of the Russian invasion. Nine adults are accompanying them.
The UK Government have stalled on issuing visas for the children – none of whom have passports – and have claimed they wanted more information on safeguarding.
Media manager for charity Dnipro Kids Appeal, Duncan MacRae, 41, flew out on March 16 to Pozon in Poland.
The children are being housed at a hotel in Nzin, northern Poland, where staff have set up a cinema and play area for them.
Mr Blackford said the children were expected to arrive in Scotland on Monday ‘all things being well’.
The UK Government have stalled on issuing visas for the children – none of whom have passports – and have claimed they wanted more information on safeguarding
The children are being housed at a hotel in Nzin, northern Poland, where staff have set up a cinema and play area for them
Britons today warned that Ukrainian refugees fleeing the war-torn European country could die before they are allowed into the UK because of nightmarish red tape and Whitehall inertia.
Some 25,000 applications to the Ukraine family programme have already been submitted, while tens of thousands more have signed up to the Government’s separate Homes For Ukraine sponsor scheme ahead of an expected influx of ‘thousands’ of Ukrainians into Britain next week.
Under the Ukraine family scheme, 6,100 visas have been issued as of 4pm on Wednesday, the Home Office said.
The Home Office was heavily criticised for a ‘chaotic’ response to the humanitarian disaster caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Though Western intelligence had warned for weeks of the possibility of a large-scale Russian invasion of Ukraine, Whitehall appeared surprised by the attack and had no refugee scheme ready to launch.
After Britain initially only accepted visa applications from those with immediate relatives in the UK, the Government was forced to make several U-turns and last-minute announcements to allow more Ukrainians in – including promises to pay Britons £350 a month to host refugees.
Home Office officials have insisted that the delays were caused by security considerations. Downing Street previously announced the Government was concerned that Russian agents could try to enter Britain by claiming to be Ukrainian refugees.
Mr Blackford said the children were expected to arrive in Scotland on Monday ‘all things being well’
Speaking about the Ukrainian orphans who are now able to reach the UK, Mr Blackford said: ‘I’m absolutely delighted we’ve managed to achieve this breakthrough and that, all things being well, Scotland will welcome 48 Ukrainian children and their guardians to safety on Monday.’
The SNP MP added: ‘While this process has been more difficult than it needed to be, all that matters now is that these children will be in a place of safety and I am pleased beyond words.
‘I want to pay tribute to everyone who has worked hard to make this happen including the Scottish charity Dnipro kids, the Ukrainian and Polish authorities, the Scottish Government, Edinburgh City Council, and all those who have helped resolve issues at the Home Office.
‘It’s essential that the UK Government learns lessons and removes unnecessary barriers and delays to supporting displaced children and families.’
Mr Blackford continued: ‘Not all children will be in the position of having guardians and adults to support them, and the Home Office must ensure there are safe, smooth and quick ways for them to access visas and reach safety. It’s far from clear to me how that can happen under the present system.’
Scottish Secretary Alister Jack said: ‘It is great news that the Dnipro Kids will soon be on their way to Scotland.
‘We have all been moved by their story and I’m very glad the UK Government was able to move so quickly to smooth their passage here.
‘I’m very grateful to the Hibs fans’ Dnipro Kids charity and all others involved in getting the children out of Ukraine safely. Scotland has a proud history of supporting refugees, and I’m sure these young people will be made incredibly welcome when they get here.’
How YOU can help refugees fleeing Putin’s bloody war: From finding someone to shelter, to the government support you can expect… vital Q&A on Britain’s Homes for Ukraine scheme
British householders have been urged to throw open their doors to Ukrainian refugees as the civilian death toll continues to rise in the conflict.
The UK Government has set out details of a sponsorship scheme allowing individuals and organisations to offer a home to refugees fleeing the fighting.
Michael Gove announced the ‘Homes for Ukraine’ scheme as the Government scrambled to make it easier for people to come to the UK.
Almost three million people have fled since the Russian invasion and civilians have continued to find themselves caught up in the fighting this week.
There have been 1,663 civilian casualties since the invasion, the UK’s Ministry of Defence said, citing United Nations figures – although the true statistic may be far higher. So far, 88,000 people in Britain have signed up to take in a Ukrainian.
Here, MailOnline answers some of the key questions regarding the scheme:
– What is the scheme?
The Homes for Ukraine programme is a sponsorship scheme allowing people and organisations in Britain to offer Ukrainians fleeing the war a home in the UK.
The scheme allows individuals, charities, community groups and businesses to bring people escaping the war to safety – even if they have no ties to the UK.
Anyone with a room or home available can offer it to a Ukrainian individual or a family, though those offering will be vetted and Ukrainian applicants will undergo security checks.
Communities Secretary Michael Gove said that initially the scheme will ‘facilitate sponsorship between people with known connections’ so it can be ‘up and running as soon as possible’.
However, he added that it will ‘rapidly’ expand by working with charities, faith and community groups.
Previously only Ukrainians with family members already settled in the UK could come.
– How long can refugees stay with a family or individual?
Members of the public providing accommodation to Ukrainians must do so for at least six months.
Sponsored Ukrainians will be granted three years’ leave to remain in the UK, with entitlement to work and access public services.
– What security checks will be carried out?
Mr Gove said the Government wants to ‘minimise bureaucracy and make the process as straightforward as possible, while also doing everything we can to ensure the safety of all involved’.
Sponsors and all adults in their households will need to submit to security checks and possibly also safeguarding checks.
The suitability of the accommodation may also be assessed by their local council.
Ukrainians will be subject to ‘standard’ security checks, according to the website, with biometric checks made after they arrive in the UK to avoid delays.
Mr Gove has said steps will be taken to ensure people who might be ‘intent on exploitation’ are prevented from ‘abusing’ the new scheme.
People queue on March 12 to board a train in Zahony, Hungary, as millions of refugees flee
– How are children going to be protected?
A spokesman for the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) said the charity did not want to see ‘unnecessary barriers’ built into the process, but ‘it is vital child protection is built into every stage of the Government’s and local authorities’ response to this crisis’.
Paul Anticoni, chief executive of World Jewish Relief, said the protection of those who have had to leave their homes – many of whom are women and children – ‘has to be a priority for any government or agencies that are involved in accommodation’.
– Is there any compensation for hosting – and what can you use it for?
Those offering a place to stay will receive an optional tax-free monthly payment of £350 which will not affect benefit entitlements or council tax status.
The ‘thank you’ payment is limited to one payment per residential address, and can be spent or saved as you wish. Hosts should not charge any rent.
Mr Gove has also said local authority areas will be entitled to more than £10,000 per Ukrainian refugee using the fresh route to the UK.
‘Additional payments’ will be available to support school-age children who need to be accommodated within the education system, he said.
– Do sponsors provide anything other than accommodation?
Sponsors are not expected to provide meals or cover the costs of food and living expenses for their guests, unless they wish to do so philanthropically.
– Can sponsors help refugees find work and access services?
The Government will provide information to sponsors so that they can point their guests to organisations who can help them access benefits, register with a GP and with school placements.
All refugees will be allowed to seek and take up employment, and there is nothing stopping sponsors helping them find a job.
– Who can be a host?
Sponsors can be of any nationality and any immigration status as long as they have permission to be in the UK for at least six months.
Anyone with a spare room, or separate self-contained accommodation that is unoccupied and available for at least six months can volunteer to help.
Ukrainian refugees crowd into support points at Krakow train station in Poland on March 14
– Who can be a guest?
The website says someone is eligible if they are a ‘Ukrainian national or the immediate family member of a Ukrainian national, and were resident in Ukraine prior to 1 January 2022.’
The scheme is open for adults and children within family units.
– How do you apply?
If you have a named person who you wish to sponsor you should get in contact with them directly and prepare to fill in a visa application with all their details and yours.
The visa application system will go live this Friday.
– What if you don’t have a name to give?
People wanting to be sponsors who do not know anyone personally fleeing the Ukraine can register their interest here: homesforukraine.campaign.gov.uk.
The Government will work with charities, faith groups and universities to match potential hosts with people from Ukraine – so you can still get involved if you don’t know anyone from the country.
More detailed guidance for sponsors will become available in the coming days, according to the website.
Anyone registering will receive updates on the security checks, information on the status of the arrangement and the role of the local council in providing wider support.
People who fled the Ukraine war rest inside an old train station building in Krakow on March 11
– Can you host AND employ a refugee?
There is nothing in the Government’s FAQs on the scheme which say you cannot host and employ a refugee, so it would appear that you can – for example if you run a small business.
However, to be sure, MailOnline has contacted the Department for Levelling Up, Housing & Communities for clarity on this.
– What rights will Ukrainian refugees have?
Refugees will be granted leave to remain in the UK for three years. They will be able to work and access benefits and public services – including healthcare and schooling.
– What rights will you have if there are problems?
A change in circumstances could mean that someone is then unable to continue housing someone for the full six months.
A Government source told the Daily Telegraph that the state would get involved if a refugee has to find other housing earlier than the six month period, and that this could then be taxpayer-funded.
Volunteers sort donations to help Ukrainian refugees in Przemysl, Poland, on March 12
– How many Ukrainians are expected to be helped through the scheme?
The Government is setting no limit, saying the UK will welcome as many Ukrainians as wish to come and for whom there are sponsors.
Members of the public are being urged to come forward and help if they can.
In less than an hour, 1,500 people had already registered for the scheme, Mr Gove told MPs, adding that he hopes the first Ukrainians to receive support under the project will arrive within a week.
This morning, it was revealed that 88,000 people have signed up on the website.
– What has been the response?
Shadow communities secretary Lisa Nandy said Labour was relieved to hear Mr Gove would announce the sponsorship scheme after weeks of delay, adding: ‘A press release is not a plan and we are really deeply concerned about the lack of urgency.’
Ms Nandy insisted the visa application process could be simplified, telling Mr Gove: ‘We could keep essential checks but drop the excessive bureaucracy.’
Mr Gove, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps and Academy Award-nominated actor Benedict Cumberbatch are among those who have said they might apply to the scheme, while Boris Johnson and Health Secretary Sajid Javid have indicated they will not.
The Government has faced widespread criticism for its response to the refugee crisis so far, with critics noting that unlike the UK all EU countries have waived visa requirements for Ukrainians in the short term.
The Refugee Council chief executive Enver Solomon told The Guardian the UK scheme was ‘effectively a managed migration route, which is not suitable to use to respond to a humanitarian crisis’.
‘This conflict doesn’t look like it’s going to end quickly. There needs to be a clear pathway to longer-term accommodations,’ he said.
There have been also concerns about the tight timeframe the Government has provided, with the NSPCC in its statement calling it an ‘ambitious turnaround’.
The charity said it was ‘essential that the Government works closely with local authorities, the fostering community, charities and other key local partners to ensure this sponsorship scheme is ultimately safe; has appropriate levels of support for traumatised Ukrainian children who have fled bloodshed, and on-going assistance available for their sponsors’.
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