More than 100,000 Britons have expressed interest in hosting Ukrainian refugees, amid concerns that the new government scheme could lead to exploitation of vulnerable women and children.
The figure was released by the government less than 24 hours after Homes for Ukraine programme was launched to take in those fleeing Russia’s invasion, most of whom are women and children.
Under the scheme, UK householders will be given initial “light touch” checks and paid £350 a month if they take in named individuals.
Lauren Agnew, human trafficking policy expert at Christian Action, Research and Education, said the scheme is “well motivated” but could lead to exploitation.
“With large numbers of applications needing to be processed quickly, red flags could be missed in the vetting of potential hosts.
“Recent statistics from the National Crime Agency estimate there are at least 6,000-8,000 modern slavery offenders in the UK. We can be certain that some of this number will be seeing the Homes for Ukraine scheme as an opportunity to turn a profit,” she said.
Local authorities will also receive £10,500 in extra funding per refugee for support services – with more for children of school age, the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities said.
Local government leaders have warned that the quick turnaround of arrivals could mean that accommodation is unsafe and relationships between sponsors and new arrivals break down.
James Jamieson, the chair of the Local Government Association, said: “With new arrivals possibly arriving as early as Sunday, councils are facing a very tight timeframe to make appropriate safety checks on accommodation being offered.
“There is a limit to what can be achieved by councils in such a short space … Despite good intentions, there is a risk that some accommodation offered may not meet safety expectations when inspected by councils or sponsorships may break down.”
Before the scheme launched, only Ukrainians with family links to the UK could apply for visas that would give them access to work and benefits.
But on Monday, the levelling up secretary, Michael Gove, announced that sponsors could bring any Ukrainian to the UK to live in their home for a minimum of six months.
A Ukrainian family could become the first to be rehoused in Britain after they were offered a place at a six-bedroom mansion in Yorkshire.
Lillia and Vitalii Kucher, …….