Social Justice

‘More people than ever’ are offering their homes to Ukrainian refugees, says UK charity

As one million people flee Ukraine after Russia's invasion, one charity says record numbers of UK families are opening their doors to refugees.

ukraine

Protesters in London, where the majority of host applications have been made. Image: Ilias Bartolini/Flickr

A refugee charity in the UK is seeing an “unprecedented” surge in families offering people a place to stay as thousands flee Ukraine following the Russian invasion.

Refugees at Home specialises in finding host families for people seeking asylum and those recently granted refugee status who need a room until they can secure more permanent housing.

One million people have fled Ukraine since Putin ordered Russian forces to begin their assault on the country, according to the UN’s most recent estimate. Around 200,000 could be eligible to come to the UK.

And while Boris Johnson’s government has come under fire for its response to the refugee crisis, the British public has stepped up in its support for people in need – with Refugees at Home receiving new applications from potential hosts every day.

“Since the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan, and now with the invasion of Ukraine, we have seen more people than ever before step up and literally open their doors to those fleeing war and persecution,” said Lauren Scott, the charity’s executive director. “When they arrive, Refugees at Home and our hosts are ready to welcome them.”

Around 1,600 households approached the charity to offer their home to refugees during last year’s Afghanistan crisis, and the team is once again seeing a huge increase in applications from across the country as the Ukraine invasion continues.

The outpouring of support has even left the charity with a shortage of home visitors, who are essential in taking the first step to match people in need with families opening up their homes.

Volunteer home visitors assess households to ensure they are suitable for hosting a refugee, talking through boundaries and the guests’ needs with a potential host.

It is a crucial role in the process of making sure people who have escaped persecution have somewhere safe to stay – which is why Refugees at Home is appealing for more people to get involved in the operation as soon as possible, particularly in London and other major cities.

The charity is looking for people with the relevant professional experience, even if they no longer do that job – so social workers, GPs, district nurses and youth workers.

Judith McCann, a social worker, has made around 20 home visits for the charity. “I love it,” she said. “I’ve met lots of different people living in different ways who all recognise that the world is better when we share what we have, and acknowledge our good fortune.”

Refugees at Home has found placements for nearly 2,600 refugees and asylum seekers to date, spanning almost 200,000 nights spent in a secure home. People from more than 75 different countries are currently being hosted through the scheme.

With thousands more people expected to seek safety on UK shores this spring, the charity is urging anyone keen to help and with the right experience to get in touch about how they can help make sure no more vulnerable people are left without a place to stay. 

“Feeling helpless is disempowering and doing something, whether it is home visiting or hosting, brings genuine joy,” McCann added. “Guests, hosts and home visitors give as much as they receive.”

Anyone interested in applying to be a home visitor can apply online or call 0300 365 4724.

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