More than 100,000 sign up to help Ukrainians move to UK

British government is offering £350 a month to households offering refugees temporary homes

Ukrainian refugees queue in Torrevieja, Spain, for one of 100 daily appointments to apply for residence and work permits. Reuters

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More than 100,000 people have signed up to a UK government programme to sponsor Ukrainian refugees.

Within hours of the campaign’s launch, the website crashed as it was inundated with applicants.

“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,” said James Cleverly, a Foreign Office minister.

The government opened its Ukraine Home Scheme on Monday afternoon. It will pay £350 ($456) a month to homeowners who can accommodate refugees for up to a year.

By Tuesday afternoon the number of those applying had exceeded 100,000, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said.

"It’s fantastic that over 100,000 people and organisations have recorded their interest in supporting Ukrainians fleeing the war through the Homes for Ukraine scheme," he tweeted.

"Thank you to everyone across the country who has stepped up to offer their help so far."

Those wishing to offer a place must nominate a refugee to house, and there has been confusion as to how hosts without links to Ukraine will be matched with people fleeing the country.

Government ministers have said charities, universities or religious groups could intervene. Would-be hosts have also used Twitter to find refugees to help.

About 44,000 offers were received within six hours and by Tuesday morning the figure had doubled.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps was the first government minister to offer to put up a Ukrainian refugee in his home.

On Tuesday, former health minister Matt Hancock announced he had also applied to the programme.

Academy Award-nominated actor Benedict Cumberbatch said on Sunday that he hoped to take part.

The sponsorship programme will allow people, charities, community groups and businesses to bring people who have no previous ties to Britain from Ukraine.

Prospective hosts can register their interest now and the application process will begin on Friday.

They will be expected to provide accommodation for at least six months.

Mr Cleverly said independent organisations would work to connect people on the register with the displaced.

“There are charities, faith groups, who are already in contact with people in Ukraine, people that need help and support,” he said.

“So, actually, rather than introduce a potentially slow and bureaucratic process, where people have already got connections – and there are a huge number of people and organisations that have already got connections with Ukrainians – rather than replicate, duplicate and slow that down, we want to be as agile and as quick as possible.

“That’s why we’re saying that we’ve got organisations which are already in contact with Ukrainians. We’ve now set up this site so British people can register their willingness to help and support.”

Housing Secretary Michael Gove said he expected tens of thousands to come out of the millions who have left Ukraine.

They will be granted an initial 12-month residency in the UK and be eligible for work and benefits.

Mr Gove said local authority areas would be entitled to more than £10,000 per refugee coming from Ukraine using a fresh route to the UK.

“Additional payments” would be available to support school-age children who need to be accommodated within the education system, he said.

Almost three million people have fled Ukraine since President Vladimir Putin ordered the Russian invasion.

In the British Parliament, Mr Gove said the Ukrainian people were “the victims of savage, indiscriminate, unprovoked aggression” and “their courage under fire and their determination to resist inspires our total admiration”.

Previously, only Ukrainians with relatives already settled in the UK could come.

The new programme provides a sponsorship route for people without family ties in Britain coming from Ukraine.

Updated: March 15, 2022, 4:22 PM