The British government is under fire for its slow reaction in assisting with the Ukrainian refugee crisis. In response, the “Homes for Ukraine” was announced Monday. British residents can go to the program’s website and sign up to house Ukrainian refugees in exchange for payment from the government. The payment for hosts is about 350 pounds ($455 USD) per month.
So far, interest is gaining ground for participation. Nearly 44,000 people signed up on the website in the first five hours. Housing and Communities Secretary Michael Gove said in a statement that there would be no limit to the number of refugees taken in by Great Britain. Some politicians are offering to open their homes to Ukrainian refugees which is an interesting twist to the story. Would American politicians offer to bring in refugees to their homes? The American politicians who opine about open borders and the Biden border crisis never offer to take in the overload of people from around the world at our southern border. But, I digress. One politician tweeted that his family is applying to help house the refugees and was promptly slammed for announcing what sounded to critics like virtue-signaling while others said it was a good deed.
We've spent the past few weeks as a family discussing the devastating situation in Ukraine, and so we intend to apply today to join other UK households in offering our home to provide refuge to Ukrainians until it is safe for them to return to their country.
— Rt Hon Grant Shapps MP (@grantshapps) March 14, 2022
Don’t look to Prime Minister Boris Johnson to throw open the doors of 10 Downing Street in London, though. Was that really a discussion? Apparently so. Chequers, the country retreat, isn’t open to housing refugees, either.
“There are specific challenges around security on housing people in No. 10,” the spokesperson said. “Various ministers have been asked about this. Obviously it will come down to individual circumstances. This is a significant commitment.”
Originally built in the 1600s, 10 Downing Street was notably open to the public for centuries. The British government installed a security fence following a terrorist bombing in 1989, though, and additional levels of security have been added since.
While people can still peer through the gates, the general public does not currently have access to Downing Street.
Despite the security concerns raised by Johnson’s spokesperson, one other location that was mentioned for refugees was the prime minister’s country house, Chequers. However, 10 Downing Street reiterated that, since Chequers is privately owned, Johnson didn’t have the power to decide to place refugees at the countryside manor.
The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, said he doesn’t have room for refugees in his home but he’s suggesting that the government seize the mansions of sanctioned Russian oligarchs and using them to house the refugees. Boris Johnson is open to looking into that idea.
“What’s doubly heart-breaking about the homes [the oligarchs] buy is they’re left empty for years,” Khan told Times Radio on Monday. “They’re not homes, they’re gold bricks used to launder money.”
“I think the Government should be seizing them, and before selling them—because they’ll take some time—they should be using them to house those Ukrainians who are fleeing Ukraine, who we’ll be offering a safe haven in London,” Khan said, adding that it would be “poetic justice.”
This concept was also held up by the prime minister’s office, which said that: “Certainly that’s something we are looking at.”
Squatters in London are way ahead of Mayor Khan. Four protesters of Putin’s war in Ukraine occupied the mansion of Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska. They wanted the property for Ukrainian refugees. After several hours of negotiations, they came down from their perch on a balcony and were arrested. Deripaska is an aluminum magnate who has called on Putin to make peace with Ukraine. Seven Russian oligarchs have been put under UK government sanctions since last week, including him.
Dozens of police including officers from the Territorial Support Group and a climbing team spent hours trying to persuade them to come down from a balcony at the front of the building.
The group refused police negotiators’ repeated attempts to “collect” them from the balcony using a crane, saying that they wanted to be treated in the same way as the prime minister. Referencing the “partygate” inquiry, they said they wanted to be sent a questionnaire to ascertain whether they had done anything wrong rather than being arrested.
But on Monday evening they left the balcony.
A spokesperson for Westminster police said: “The four people protesting on the balcony of a building in Belgrave Square have come down and been arrested. A police presence will remain at the scene.”
One of the squatters said he is from Lithuania and ready for the consequences of his arrest. The group of protesters voiced concern for their own countries since Putin invaded Ukraine. They don’t want their countries to be next, if Putin successfully takes control of Ukraine. Their message to the oligarchs is “You occupy Ukraine, we occupy you.”
The policy before the Home for Ukraine program was announced was for refugees to be admitted into Great Britain if they had family living there. Eligibility has been extended to all refugees now but they still require a visa, unlike other nations in the EU, which have waived all visa requirements and allows them to stay up to three years. Ukrainians can apply for visas online using their passports.
Britain’s health minister announced that 21 Ukrainian children suffering from cancer were flown to Britain for treatment after evacuating to Poland.
Poland has taken in the greatest number of Ukrainian refugees. Nearly three million refugees have fled Ukraine since Putin’s invasion. Poland has taken 1.8 million refugees so far. Romania, Moldova, Hungary, and Slovakia have also taken in refugees, numbering the in the hundreds of thousands. And, it should be noted that about 150,000 have fled to Russia, and 1,500 to Belarus, Russia’s puppet government.
The UN said it is likely many refugees will have moved on to other countries from Poland, Hungary and Slovakia, though free movement and very few border controls within the European Union’s Schengen area means these travels are not recorded.
This is a world war but it is concentrated in Europe so it is logical that most refugees remain in European countries, especially neighboring countries. There is shared history and culture, very much unlike when Germany allowed tens of thousands of Syrian refugees to stay in that country ten years ago. At the time of Putin’s invasion, the White House expressed willingness to accept Ukrainian refugees though it expects most to remain in Europe.
“The president is certainly prepared for that,” Ms. Psaki said of accepting Ukraine refugees. ”But I would just note that because there are a number of European countries neighboring Ukraine who have expressed openness to it and we anticipate most would want to go to European countries.”
The Biden administration has designated Ukraine with temporary protected status. A large spike in Russian and Ukrainians was noted at the southern border as early as January, in anticipation of the Mad Man of Moscow invading Ukraine and starting a war.
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