A charity warned that the UK Government’s ‘Homes for Ukraine’ scheme was being exploited by sexual predators before it even opened.
Positive Action in Housing, which is helping 593 Ukrainian families and young people find shelter in the UK and runs Britain’s longest established refugee hosting programme, warned that if the scheme was run by a NGO it would be shut down.
The Glasgow-based charity is currently arranging safe passage for three young people aged under 21 who it persuaded not to use social media to find a sponsor.
Director Robina Qureshi warned that the way the UK Government’s scheme is being run would be “shut down by any regulator” if carried out by an NGO rather than the government.
She said in one case, a day before the official scheme opened earlier this month, a man contacted a young Ukrainian woman who was seeking information about Homes for Ukraine on social media.
The man, who claimed to be a doctor with an opulent lifestyle, asked her to send photos of herself and tell him about herself.
He sent her a link to “Homes for Ukraine”. She politely declined to send photos of herself.
He sent a message reading: “Phase One is open on Friday. There are some people who are interested in coming to my house. So I need to make a decision.
“I am a doctor and live alone in a big house.”
The man then sent her photos of himself sitting in first class on a plane, a picture of his sports car, and the rooms in a luxury house, including a luxury jacuzzi.
She replied: “I’ll probably use the official application, as I don’t trust anyone in such a situation coming to a foreign country… I’m not looking for dating. And I know what some people use it for, I’m also not into some kind of escort.”
He replied: “I am doing this through the official route. I have registered and I can nominate one person.”
The man then sends a screen shot of his official confirmation email from the UK Government’s Homes for Ukraine Scheme.
He went on to offer her an “arrangement”, a euphemism for sex.
He added: “So, free accommodation, food, expenses, plus a monthly allowance. The other option for you is to register with charities in which case you will be allocated randomly.”
The young woman then said she was with her mother, and he declined to help.
Ms Qureshi said: “We are right now observing safeguarding breaches and unsafe situations on an industrial scale as a result of the Homes for Refugees Scheme.
“This scheme has lost all credibility as a trusted route for women, children and young people.
“The government sidelined NGOs and established hosting networks and this is the mess created.
“War refugees being directed down the road of human trafficking
“Now so called “sponsors” registered with Homes for Ukraine have gone onto social media to offer shelter for sex to war refugees.
“Who is the genuine sponsor, and who is the trafficker, nobody knows for sure.
“We are worried that Ukrainian refugees, especially children and young people as young as 13, confuse the official registered email from Homes for Ukrainians sent to those who sign up to the governments register, and think the “sponsor” is legitimate and cleared.
“We were in visceral shock when we saw what was unfolding.
“If an NGO did this, it would be shut down by every regulator.
“But no it’s the government.
“We expect to see and hear much worse in the coming weeks and months.”