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More than 10,000 people in Wales express interest in housing Ukrainian refugees

But some sponsors have accused the UK government of being too slow to implement the scheme

MORE than 10,000 people in Wales have signed up to provide a home for a Ukrainian refugee. 

UK residents will be able to sponsor an individual or family to stay with them either in their home or another property. They must be able to provide accommodation for at least six months, and will receive £350 from the government to support them to do so. 

The scheme, which 147,500 people in the UK have registered for, will enable people from Ukraine without existing family connections here to obtain a visa to come to the UK.

A separate scheme is available for people in the Ukraine who have family in the UK. 

Visas will be granted once a refugee has been matched with a sponsor who has registered for the scheme. The first matches are now being made. 

Among the 10,000 in Wales is Simon Weller, 54 of Pentwyn, who said: “The minute the UK Gov scheme went live, we signed up.”

Simon, who made friends with a Ukrainian he met whilst scuba diving abroad, added: “That first week, I barely slept, constantly watched news channels such as AlJazeera/Sky and was getting first-hand information and videos/photos from my friends in Kharkiv.

“At one point I didn’t hear from them for over 24 hours. I had an awful sick feeling in the pit of my stomach, and when they texted me I burst into tears.”

The text message read: “My City is gone, my heart is broken.”

Mr Weller and his former veteran colleagues will also be driving from Birmingham to Lviv in Ukraine to move 15 4×4 vehicles filled with medical supplies which local residents are donating.

However, Mr Weller is among a number of people who have criticised the government for how slowly the refugee scheme has been implemented compared with other countries. 

Mr Weller said: “The Government have been slow off the mark. They knew many already had familial links or friends here who would happily give them safe haven. 

“They had a few weeks before this scheme was created to think about what was needed on the ground in border countries of Ukraine to ensure a quicker safe passage to the UK, with essential but minimal checks.”

Simon and his Family. Credit: Simon Weller.

Samantha Gaudion, 48, of Pontcanna has also registered for the Homes for Ukraine refugee scheme.

She said: “We’re absolutely heartbroken at what we witnessing on the news and social media being done to ordinary people like us, both in the war zones and crossing the borders into neighbouring countries. 

“We have the space to offer a safe, friendly environment for a small family fleeing this devastation whom we would happily welcome into our home, with the hope that other families can offer the same in Cardiff.”

Mrs Gaudion is also frustrated with the sponsoring system that has been implemented by the government.

She said: “We’ve tried to find a family to sponsor through various charities and Facebook groups but have been unsuccessful as of yet.  

“There is literally no help from the government to find a sponsor and no representation at the borders which is shameful. Volunteers from small organisations are there doing their best to match people but more needs to be done as we are relying on Facebook posts, which leaves these women and children in an extremely vulnerable position.

“Personally I hoped either the government would have had a strong presence at the borders to help the refugees with all the form filling/checks they require and hold a database to match with sponsors in the UK and to then help transport them quickly to a safe place.”

Ukrainian refugees who will be arriving under the scheme will be able to live and work in the UK for up to three years. They will be able to access healthcare, benefits, employment support, education and English language tuition. 

Welsh Government Minister of Social Justice, Jane Hutt announced that Wales will act as a super-sponsor under the UK Government’s Homes for Ukraine scheme.

Speaking about their “Team Wales” approach, she said: “Being a super-sponsor will speed up the process of enabling Ukrainians who want to come to Wales to do so quickly, without the worry of having to demonstrate a link to Wales before arriving.

“As part of our role as a super sponsor, we have been working intensely with local government in Wales; with the third sector and with wider public services to ensure all the support refugees need when they arrive in Wales are available. This includes support for people suffering trauma and ill health as a direct result of the conflict.

“We will also be able to sponsor people directly and people arriving via this route will be directed to one of the welcome centres, which are being set up across Wales before going on to medium and longer-term accommodation. This model is based on the success of the Afghan and Syrian resettlement schemes.”

The Welcome Centres will enable early access to services such as health screening, interpretation, English language lessons and supporting people to access benefits and set up bank accounts.  

Yesterday, Urdd Gobaith Cymru announced that one of their residential centres will be turned into a Welcome Centre, which will offer short-term accommodation for 250 refugees from Ukraine.

Sian Lewis, chief executive of the Urdd said: “The children and people of Ukraine are facing unbearable pain and a threat to their lives.

“Alongside our partners, we will welcome, support, and offer them a safe refuge full of friendship and love. The Urdd would like to wholeheartedly thank all pupils, schools and groups who have given their place in the Gwersyll (camp) to support the refugees in their time of great need.”

First Minister of Wales Mark Drakeford has also announced that Ukrainian refugees will be able to access free travel on rail services across Wales for six months.

The free rail travel initiative is an extension to an existing Welsh government programme offering free public transport to asylum seekers in Wales. This is part of the Welsh Government’s ambition to become the world’s first Nation of Sanctuary as endorsed by the United Nations.