Michael Gove mistakenly says 300,000 visas given to Ukrainians

Cabinet minister Michael Gove blundered over the number of Ukrainian refugees accepted by Britain – incorrectly claiming that 300,000 visas have been issued to those fleeing the Russian invasion.

Challenged over the figures on Sky News, Mr Gove admitted he had got the figured wrong, before revealing that only around 3,000 visas had been granted on the Ukraine family scheme.

The leveling up minister set out details of the new sponsorship route, allowing Britons to offer homes to Ukrainian refugees and receive a “thank you” payment of £350 per month.

Mr Gove said “tens of thousands” of refugees could come through the route, and revealed that local authorities would receive £10,000 for each Ukrainian refugee it sponsors and provides support.

The government has been criticized for insisting that British sponsors go through online paperwork and security checks on behalf of a particular, named refugee.

The Refugee Council accused the government of putting too many “bureaucratic hurdles” in the way – and said “it will inevitably be restricted to those who are known to people in the UK”.

Mr Gove said charities would help in the “matching process”, and said the government believed individuals and community groups would use social media to connect and fill out online paperwork together.

“The alternative to that would be the government attempting to match people in Ukraine to individuals here – that could be quite a slow, bureaucratic process,” he told Sophie Ridge on Sunday.

Mr Gove added: “We know charities, and we are working with them, who are working to identify people on the ground, and helping to identify people here to create the matching process.”

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The Homes for Ukraine scheme will allow individuals, charities, community groups and businesses to bring people fleeing the war to safety, even if they have no ties to the UK.

Sponsored refugees will be granted 36 months leave to remain in the UK, with entitlement to public services, while sponsors will be expected to guarantee a minimum stay of six months.

But a lot of questions remain unanswered. The government appears to be expecting refugees and sponsors to find each other on social media, or through family and friendship networks, before making an application on the website launched on Monday.

Britons offering accommodation will be vetoed and the Ukrainian applicants will also have to undergo security checks.

Enver Solomon, chief executive of the Refugee Council, said: “By establishing a visa route and naming scheme, it will inevitably be restricted to those who are known to people in the UK”, adding that it would be a “lengthy” application process .

Labor also cautioned that “too many questions remain unanswered” about the new scheme.

Shadow leveling-up secretary Lisa Nandy said that if Britons were required to have a prior connection to a Ukrainian family to sponsor them, that would be “a severe limitation”.

Ms Nandy said it was unclear what support would be offered to vulnerable children and older people, whether provision would be made for unaccompanied children, and what help would go to local government and housing providers.

Mr Gove also appeared to suggest the government would consider a third route to Ukrainian refugees, akin to the humanitarian resettlement scheme set up to welcome Syrians from refugee camps.

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The minister told Sky News the UK could continue to send humanitarian countries on the Ukrainian border. “Alongside that we can then see how many people how many we can take to the UK… there are of course many others we can support and whom we can provide a warm welcome.”

Former immigration minister Caroline Nokes said security checks must be carried out at an “impressive speed” on the “brilliant people” wishing to offer homes to refugees under the government’s new sponsorship scheme.

She added: “It is imperative that all these brilliant people who are contacting me and contacting charities offering up their homes, they do need to be checked. That’s a sad, stark reality. But that has to happen quickly.”


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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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