Harrogate area to welcome arrival of first Ukrainian refugees 'very shortly' says council

The Harrogate area looks set to welcome its first refugees shortly as part of the Homes for Ukraine scheme.

By Graham Chalmers
Thursday, 7th April 2022, 5:19 pm

Harrogate Borough Council this week confirmed that as many as 180 families were ready to receive ‘guests’ from the conflict zone as part of Government initiatives.

A spokesperson for Harrogate Borough Council said: “Early data indicates around 180 households across the county have signed-up and are likely to receive guests, some very shortly.

“Early data indicates around 180 households across North Yorkshire have signed-up and are likely to receive guests, some very shortly." - Harrogate Borough Council.

“In partnership with our colleagues at North Yorkshire Council County, North Yorkshire Police and the other district councils across North Yorkshire, Harrogate Borough Council is working together to do whatever is necessary to help Ukrainians fleeing the ongoing devastation caused by the Russian invasion.”

The news comes as the tide of support for Ukraine from Harrogate-based charities and individual volunteers shows no signs of ebbing with aid missions continuing to set off from the town with medical supplies and more.

At the national level there have been complaints about the bureaucratic and slow nature of the Government’s two main schemes to offer sanctuary in the UK to those fleeing the conflict in the Ukraine.

Aid agencies and MPs have even labelled Britain’s complicated refugee system as “Kafkaesque.”

Harrogate and Knaresborough MP Andrew Jones is now offering to help anyone struggling to navigate the system.

“I encourage anyone who is having difficulties with the visa system to contact me and we will quickly take up the issues,” said Mr Jones. “We can do this more quickly if we have reference numbers for the refugees so please try and have these to hand.”

But the Harrogate and Knaresborough MP added he was proud of Harrogate’s humanitarian response to the ongoing Ukraine crisis.

“The fact that people are volunteering in our area to provide a home to Ukrainian refugees is something of which we should be very proud.

“We need to match that generosity with a speedy resolution to any issues in the process of getting people to safety in this country.”

Harrogate Borough Council: Advice on sponsoring refugees

A spokesperson for Harrogate Borough Council said: “We know many Harrogate district residents still want to offer a home and accommodation to Ukrainian families.

“We will do what is required to help.

“That includes checking accommodation is suitable, DBS checks on sponsors, payments to sponsors and guests, education for children and the on-going provision of support for evacuees.

“Those who want to help in this way must continue to register their interest on the Government website at: www.gov.uk/register-interest-homes-ukraine.”

In the aftermath of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the Government has introduced two schemes for refugees

1. The family visa scheme is for Ukrainians with a family member in the UK.

That family member must have British nationality, indefinite leave to remain, settled status or proof of permanent residence.

It was launched at the beginning of March, and extended after criticism that it excluded some close family members.

Ukrainian refugees are advised to apply at a Visa Application Centre (VAC) in countries including Poland, Romania, Hungary and Moldova.

They need to provide biometric information, such as fingerprints.

As of March 31, the UK had issued 24,400 visas under this scheme from 32,800 applications.

2. The Homes for Ukraine scheme lets people in the UK host Ukrainians refugees who are known to them, but who do not have family ties here.

Each household housing a refugee will be offered £350 a month, tax-free, for up to 12 months.

Local authorities will also receive £10,500 in extra funding per refugee for support services, with more for children of school age.

It was launched on March 14, and more than 100,000 people and organisations signed up within the first day

In addition to the lengthy paperwork refugees must submit to obtain both types of visas, government guidance for the Homes for Ukraine scheme states that applicants "will be subject to a range of checks".

Some families who have applied to be sponsors have complained that the system is overly complicated.

Those offering to host a refugee will be vetted by the government and Ukrainian applicants will undergo security checks.

These checks will include:

A visit from local authorities to ensure that properties are fit for purpose

Basic DBS check if hosts are sponsoring adults

Enhanced DBS check if hosts are sponsoring children under 18 or vulnerable adults.

Government figures show that as of March 31, 4,700 sponsorship visas had been issued from 32,200 applications in the Homes for Ukraine scheme.