Ukraine anniversary: hundreds of refugees given shelter in North Somerset

File photo dated 06/05/22 of an Ukrainian and Union flag flying. Up to 10,000 Ukrainians are being offered free English language lessons in a bid to improve their job prospects in the UK. Some of those who have fled the war in their homeland and settled in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland will be given almost 20 hours of online English learning a week over a period of 10 weeks, the Government said. The announcement comes on Ukrainian Independence Day. Issue date: Thursday August 24, 2023.File photo dated 06/05/22 of an Ukrainian and Union flag flying. Up to 10,000 Ukrainians are being offered free English language lessons in a bid to improve their job prospects in the UK. Some of those who have fled the war in their homeland and settled in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland will be given almost 20 hours of online English learning a week over a period of 10 weeks, the Government said. The announcement comes on Ukrainian Independence Day. Issue date: Thursday August 24, 2023.
File photo dated 06/05/22 of an Ukrainian and Union flag flying. Up to 10,000 Ukrainians are being offered free English language lessons in a bid to improve their job prospects in the UK. Some of those who have fled the war in their homeland and settled in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland will be given almost 20 hours of online English learning a week over a period of 10 weeks, the Government said. The announcement comes on Ukrainian Independence Day. Issue date: Thursday August 24, 2023.
It's been two years since the start of the war in Ukraine – and North Somerset residents have taken in hundreds of refugees.

It's been two years since the start of the war in Ukraine – and North Somerset residents have taken in hundreds of refugees.

Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24, 2022 – and since then more than 200,000 refugees have arrived in the UK through two schemes.

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These are the family scheme – which allows Ukrainians living in the UK to bring family members over from their home country – and the sponsorship scheme, where individuals can offer to look after refugees fleeing the conflict.

Data from the Home Office shows 629 Ukrainians have arrived in the UK having been sponsored by residents of North Somerset since the spring of 2022, from a total of 729 visas issued.

A year ago, 524 refugees had arrived after being sponsored by people in the area.

The sponsorship scheme – also known as 'Homes for Ukraine' – has seen 143,400 people fleeing the conflict arrive in the UK.

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Local figures are not available for the family scheme, but 56,800 people have arrived through it since it was launched in March 2022.

The Government closed applications to the scheme on Monday (February 19), with charities criticising the move.

Enver Solomon, chief executive of the Refugee Council, said: "The lack of options for Ukrainian and other families separated by war and persecution is already a huge problem. It’s concerning that one of the few safe routes created for families to reunite will be closing at such short notice.

"This is a reminder of the disadvantages of bespoke, one-off visa schemes that support refugees in the short term but leave people in limbo, anxious and uncertain about their future."

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The British Red Cross also expressed concern about the changes, adding: "Ukrainians seeking safety in the UK need more stability and stronger protection. We urge the Government to reconsider these changes."

Responding to an urgent question in the House of Commons, Home Office minister Tom Pursglove said Ukrainians will still be able to come to the UK for "sanctuary" through the Homes for Ukraine scheme.

He told Parliament: "There will continue to be an in-country opportunity for people to apply to extend their visas."

Mr Pursglove further praised the "enormous amount" of work from communities across the UK to welcome Ukrainians fleeing the conflict.

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On Monday the Government also announced an 18-month extension available at the start of 2025 for those in the UK through the two refugee schemes.

Since February 2022 more than 9,000 Ukrainian households have received homelessness duties from councils, having suffered or been at risk of homelessness.

Despite this, 6,000 are no longer receiving them, meaning the issues may have been resolved.

This includes 11 households in North Somerset, of which six had dependent children. For all households, eight have since had their duties ended.

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A spokesperson for the Department of Levelling Up, Housing and Communities said: "For arrivals under the Homes for Ukraine Scheme, we provide a £5,900 per person tariff to councils to enable them to provide support to individuals and families, including in the minority of cases where someone is left without accommodation.

"We want to prevent homelessness before it occurs, which is why we are giving councils £1 billion over three years for them to help people find a new home and move out of temporary accommodation."

They added £109 million had been allocated to prevent Ukrainians from becoming homeless.