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Britons will receive £350/month in a ‘Homes for Ukraine’ scheme

The British government offers 350 pounds a month to households providing a rent-free room to Ukrainian refugees. The U.K. has been heavily criticized for its bureaucratic process as it requires a visa while the European Union waived such restrictions.

Residential street in London
Residential street in Leytonstone, London | © Martin Sepion

People in the United Kingdom who open their doors to Ukrainian refugees will be compensated £350 (US$457) a month, the Guardian reported on Saturday, in exchange for a rent-free room to Ukrainian refugees.

The ‘Homes for Ukraine scheme’, or Local Sponsorship Scheme, was announced in early March and launched its online registration on March 14 for people who wish to help but don’t know anyone to sponsor. The scheme will open on Friday for refugee applicants.

“Sponsors” of a Ukrainian family would receive a compensation regardless whether they welcome one person or a family.

In early March, the United Kingdom announced the Local Sponsorship Scheme, which allows “sponsors, such as communities or local authorities to bring people to the UK,” the government said.

Refugees would be able to work, claim benefits and access public services for three years under the scheme. The sponsors would provide rent-free housing and integration support for at least 6 months. Individuals and families are also able to act as sponsors.

The government on Monday confirmed the £350 per month per residential address for up to 12 months as a “thank you” payment.

This humanitarian visa isn’t capped and could bring 200,000 refugees in the U.K according to officials. A similar scheme was implemented in 2015 for Syrians and supported 700 people, although the offers for support are expected to be much higher for Ukrainians.

Critics argue individuals are not skilled to offer integration support on refugees traumatized by their situation.

But amid the refugee crisis, it took two weeks to roll it out. Officials considered it was difficult to implement the program. The government has been heavily criticized for its bureaucracy and lack of overall flexibility to welcome Ukrainian refugees and has been trying to catch up on its processes.

The United Kingdom wants to safeguard its immigration policy and insists on granting visas while the European Union allows Ukrainian refugees to stay for three years without visa. Ironically enough, the British government in January proposed a bill to speed up amendments of legacy European Union laws and remove red tape inherited from the E.U.

The Local Sponsorship Scheme applies to Ukrainians who don’t have family ties in the U.K. but the country only grants visas for refugees with close relatives on British soil as part of the Ukraine Family Scheme visa so far.

The Ukraine Family Scheme visa, which allows applicants to join family members or extend their stay in the U.K. for up to 3 years, becomes more flexible from March 15 the government announced last Friday. People will be able to apply for a visa directly online.

Before March 15, refugees needed to attend an in-person appointment at a visa application center, hand over biometric details and fill in complex forms. There are only 6 visa applications centers across Poland (2), Hungary, Moldova, Romania and France and refugees needed to wait on an answer before being eligible to travel to the U.K.

The government last week opened a temporary center in Poland to try to answer to the demand as the total number of appointments across Europe had increased from 2,000 to 13,000 appointments.

The Ukraine Family Scheme visa only applies to people who have relatives in the U.K but in the meantime, more than 1 million Ukrainians fled the war to Poland alone.

The U.K. has granted 4,000 visas as of March 13, according to official data.

On March 13, Michael Gove, Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing & Communities, said on a BBC show they consider using frozen assets like Roman Abramovitch’s house to welcome refugees.

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