After it was revealed that people would have to name the refugees they desire to sponsor, Michael Gove’s idea to allow UK households to shelter Ukrainians wishing to flee the Russian war machine was likened to a “DIY asylum programme.”
Following criticisms over the government’s tardy reaction to Europe’s biggest humanitarian tragedy in decades, the communities secretary was chastised after laying out the specifics of the homes for Ukraine programme in the Commons on Monday.
Gove told MPs that the plan will initially only permit sponsorship between persons with established links to get it “up and running as quickly as possible.” He went on to say that it should “rapidly” expand by partnering with charities, church groups, and community organisations.
Lisa Nandy, the shadow communities secretary, expressed alarm over the government’s suggestion that people post on Instagram as part of a “DIY asylum programme” to unite Ukrainian families with sponsors.
The new scheme’s details were revealed after Grant Shapps, the transport secretary, became the first senior MP to indicate he would apply, despite No 10 saying the prime minister would not for security concerns. On Monday afternoon, minutes after its start, the website accepting UK submissions seemed to fail.
British citizens will be allowed to apply to take Ukrainians into their homes for a minimum of six months in exchange for £350 per month. They will be subjected to “light touch” scrutiny and local authority inspections to ensure that their properties are suitable. By 8.30 p.m. GMT on Monday, approximately 37,000 registrations from UK residents had been submitted to join the scheme.
Sponsored Ukrainians will be allowed to stay in the UK for three years, with the right to work and use public services.
Gove stated the number of Ukrainians entering the UK is “rapidly growing” in the Commons. “The number of Ukrainians who can profit from this system will be unlimited,” he stated. “We are working with the Home Office,” he replied when asked about safeguarding checks on UK applicants. We don’t feel that thorough DBS checks are required to ensure that someone is a suitable sponsor. In many cases, extremely light-touch criminal checks will suffice, and local authorities may then be added to ensure that everything is in order.
Gove stated that the government has already taken adjustments to streamline the visa application process. Gove said he spoke to local government officials about the initiative 10 days ago, telling MPs that more cash was available to local governments for school seats and child care.
Nandy also questioned why the government insists on requiring Ukrainians to complete long visa application papers. Stuart McDonald, the SNP’s home affairs spokesman, demanded that the government “stop inviting Ukrainians to apply for visas completely.”
Earlier this week, it was revealed that the Prime Minister was unlikely to invite any Ukrainian refugees into No 10, citing security concerns, but the transport secretary stated he would apply to the new scheme.