UK’s Homes for Ukraine scheme is a “completely unworkable” response to the refugee crisis caused by Russia’s invasion, Lisa Nandy has said.
In an interview with the Observer, the shadow communities secretary urged the government to slash red tape and get involved in matching refugees with their hosts in Britain.
“There is no formal central system of matching the people on the register to those in need, which is pretty extraordinary,” the Labour MP said.
‘Excessive layers of bureaucracy’
Nandy also criticised how the scheme is handling paperwork requirements, after visa applications opened on Friday to Ukrainians who have a named sponsor and no family links to UK.
And she hit out at the lack of consultation of charities and local authorities before launching the scheme, and at the government seemingly wanting Ukrainian refugees to advertise themselves on social media for British sponsors to pick them.
“Since this was met with criticism, they seem to have shifted to getting charities involved,” she said.
She added: “When you add in the excessive layers of bureaucracy – the lengthy forms and the documents you need to prove your identity and residency – the barriers make this scheme completely unworkable.
“Unless urgent steps are taken to address this, we will see very small numbers of people taking up this offer and a lot of the public’s generosity squandered.”
Almost 3.4 million Ukrainians – and the countries the largest numbers went to
Almost 3.4 million Ukrainians have so far fled their country since Russia invaded Ukraine at the end of February.
As of Saturday, over two million went to Poland and over half a million to Romania, UN data shows.
Nandy hit out at the UK government earlier this week, saying there is a “lack of urgency” both in getting Ukrainian refugees to the UK, and in ensuring they receive support after they arrive.
She said: “These are 50-page forms that have to be completed online, asking people who have fled with nothing to find an internet cafe to upload documents. They don’t have water bills, mortgage documents to prove who they are.”
Despite the complicated process, Nandy pointed out that the Home Office has also been “incredibly slow” in issuing the visas – with only 4,000 approved as of Monday morning.
‘Lagging behind the generosity of other countries’
“We are lagging way behind the generosity of other countries. We could simplify this process today, we could keep essential checks but drop the excessive bureaucracy.
“Why hasn’t it been done?”
The Labour politician said British people have been offering to help, and praised their “decency in spirit”.
But she contrasted this with what she suggested is government inaction, and urged the government to explain what they are doing to match families to sponsors.
She ridiculed the idea that Brits who want to sponsor Ukrainians have to name the refugees to the government, saying Ukrainians cannot “get onto Instagram and advertise themselves in the hope that a British family might notice them”.
She added: “Is this genuinely the extent of this scheme?
“Surely there’s a role for the Secretary of State in matching Ukrainian families to their sponsors, not just a DIY asylum scheme where all he does is take the credit. Can he please clarify what the government’s role is going to be.
“There’s been a lack of urgency to get people here, and there’s still a lack of urgency to ensure we support them when they do.”