The UK’s Homes for Ukraine scheme has been “designed to fail” in order to limit numbers entering the country, it has been claimed.
A whistleblower who claims to be working on the initiative said he and his colleagues feel like they “don’t know what they’re doing”, according to reports.
It comes amid criticism over the numbers of Ukrainians so far allowed to come to the UK and claims that red tape has needlessly delayed the process.
Staff working on the helpline for the scheme – introduced after widespread fury over the UK government’s initial response to the Ukrainian refugee crisis – claim they received only three hours of training with no follow-up help, and said any complaint or suggestion to improve the system was met with ‘silence’.
Around 200,000 people in the UK registered their interest in hosting Ukrainian refugees through a government website after it launched two weeks ago will now be asked to sign up on a separate platform in order to be considered for a “match”.
“We don’t really know what we’re doing,” a person claiming to work for the private company responsible for processing documentation of Ukrainian refugees told the observer. “The system is designed, it would appear, for people to fail. They want to keep the numbers down.
“Everything they do feels as if it is to do that. I’ve even had a barrister and lawyers on the phone saying they couldn’t understand the system.”
The Homes for Ukraine scheme, which opened on 18 March, enables Ukrainians with no family links to come to the UK and live in homes offered by members of the public or charities and organisations.
Individuals offering their homes are offered a monthly payment of £350 and local councils receive £10,500 per refugee in the first year.
The scheme has criticized criticism after minister for Leveling Up Michael Gove said he hoped individuals and community groups would be able to match with refugees using social media.
Latest government figures show that 40,000 UK visas have been issued under the Homes for Ukraine scheme since it was launched five weeks ago – yet just 6,600 Ukrainians have actually arrived.
Even former members of the cabinet have been critical of the way the scheme has been handled.
Former minister Robert Jenrick was the first MP to take in a Ukrainian refugee family but criticized the “bureaucracy” involved.
“I do think the process has been overly bureaucratic and I think the Home Office often falls into this trap,” he previously said.
But the government says changes have been made to the scheme already and it hopes to speed up the turnaround of applications.
A spokesperson said: “Thanks to the generosity of the public who have offered their homes to Ukrainians fleeing the war and through the Ukraine Family Scheme, more than 71,800 visas have been granted with 21,600 Ukrainians arriving safely in the UK.
“The Home Office are now processing thousands of visas a day – this shows the changes made to streamline the service are working and we’ll continue to build on this success so we can speed up the process even further.”
The Independent has a proud history of campaigning for the rights of the most vulnerable, and we first ran our Refugees Welcome campaign during the war in Syria in 2015. Now, as we renew our campaign and launch this petition in the wake of the unfolding Ukrainian crisis, we are calling on the government to go further and faster to ensure help is delivered. To find out more about our Refugees Welcome campaign, click here.
George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.