Monday, June 5

Refugee website crashes as 89,000 Britons rush to take in Ukrainians | Ukraine

Almost 89,000 people have offered homes to Ukrainian refugees in the first hours of a government scheme that allows families and individuals to bring them to the UK.

The website for registering interest in the scheme crashed for a short while because of the numbers offering homes. By 9am on Tuesday, 88,712 had joined the scheme. The Foreign Office minister, James Cleverly, said “10,000 people every hour” were signing up.

A spokesman said the Homes for Ukraine website “temporarily stalled” after it went live late on Monday afternoon, owing to the “enormous generosity of the British public”. He said the total number of offers was continuing to rise, with offers doubling within hours.

Almost 3 million people have fled Ukraine since the Russian invasion, with more internally displaced as cities are shelled.

Until Monday, only Ukrainians with family links to the UK could apply for visas that would give them access to work and benefits.

But on Monday Michael Gove announced that sponsors could bring any Ukrainian to the UK to live in their home for a minimum of six months, for which they would receive a £350 monthly payment.

Under the scheme, refugees will be allowed to live and work in the UK for up to three years and receive full and unrestricted access to benefits, healthcare, employment and other support.

Cleverly said he was proud that the numbers of people wanting to help Ukrainians meant the website had crashed.

“Frankly, I’m glad we moved quickly on this and we’re moving quickly to ensure we’re able to help the Ukrainian refugees,” he said. “I know this is a weird thing to say as a government minister – I’m glad the website crashed, because it is a reflection of that generosity of the British people.”

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Asked whether he would be taking part in the scheme, Cleverly said: “I have genuinely considered this. I’ve discussed this with my wife. I don’t know whether our personal circumstances will allow us to do this right at the moment.

“As you know, Nick, my wife, she’s going through medical treatment at the moment, but it’s absolutely something that I’m considering.”

The administration of the scheme has been criticized by Labor as families need to identify a Ukrainian family they wish to sponsor. Lisa Nandy, the shadow leveling up secretary, called it a “DIY scheme” and said: “He can’t seriously be asking Ukrainian families who are fleeing Vladimir Putin, who have left their homes with nothing, to get on to Instagram and advertise themselves in the hope that a British family might notice them.”

Cleverly said local authorities would get the help they needed. “We don’t know how many will seek refuge and for how long,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

He said charities and faith groups would lead on matching people with refugees seeking to come to the UK, adding that the government taking over the matching would be a “slow and bureaucratic process”.

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