Ukrainian families arriving in the UK as part of the Homes for Ukraine program are increasingly ending up homeless after falling out with their hosts, it has emerged.
A growing number of refugees are turning up at local councils after receiving just one day’s notice to find new sponsors.
One woman claims she was told to leave by text message, while another British host did not tell the family she was a strict vegetarian who does not allow meat in the house, before telling the family to leave “so soon as possible”.
Charities fear the whole system could collapse when the hosts, most of whom have the best of intentions, fail to realize the enormity of the task.
Many of the families are traumatised, with reports of Ukrainian children throwing themselves to the ground at loud noises, mistaking them for bombs.
There is also concern that there could be great pressure to rehouse refugees once they have stayed with their host families for the minimum period of six months required by the plan.
The government is now reportedly working on a ‘re-matching’ service to find new Ukrainian sponsors when needed, the Observer reports.
More than 26,000 Ukrainians have arrived from the Eastern European nation through the government’s Homes for Ukraine scheme, but many have found themselves in danger after falling out with their hosts, many of whom connected on social media.
Ukrainian refugees from the Mariupol region board a bus bound for Poland, at a humanitarian aid and registration center for internally displaced persons on May 17, 2022.
More than 26,000 Ukrainians have arrived from the Eastern European nation through the government’s Homes for Ukraine program.
Ukrainian refugee Julia Skubenko (pictured) was offered a room in exchange for marriage
A mother, named Olga, and her three-year-old son Nikita were kicked out of their host’s home in Rugby after their little one scared one of the other children.
She told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme: ‘Our children were playing in the same room and my son scared his eldest son. His son didn’t want to let him out of the room.
‘She [the host] He wrote me a message in the translator and said he was sorry and that he had decided to call the local council and that we would have to go find another sponsor.’
Breaking down in tears, she added: ‘I feel bad for my son. I don’t know how long it will take to find a new sponsor.’
The mother and son are being housed in a hostel by the local council, which said it was looking for a new sponsor family for the couple.
The government told the BBC that its sponsors were only asking a small number of Ukrainians to leave.
However, when it happens, it puts pressure on the municipalities to relocate them.
The Local Government Association said there has been a “worrying increase” in Ukrainians becoming homeless.
Ukrainians flee to western Ukraine and Poland by train from Odessa to Przemysl at the railway station in Odessa, Ukraine, on April 25, 2022.
President John Jameson said, “We have a homeless duty to Ukrainian refugees as we would anyone, which means we have to find them a place to stay.”
‘In the short term it’s going to be a hotel, but then we have to find a home.’
It comes as social media is awash with other examples of patrons ditching their refugee guests.
A woman claims she was told to leave via text message.
The 44-year-old economist had come to London through the Homes for Ukrainians programme.
She wrote on a Facebook page: ‘My sponsor has decided to revoke, unexpectedly, informing me by SMS without any agreement with me… So I am looking for a new sponsor and a new accommodation.’
Another post reads: “Urgent… a Ukrainian family has been literally pushed into the street by their sponsor.”
One claimed, “The hosts are asking a family in my town to leave,” while another said, “It all went wrong.”
“The sponsor smokes in the house all the time, the family is stressed and crying,” said another.
Marta Mulyak, who has taken in a number of Ukrainian families since the start of the war and is president of 1st London Plast, a Ukrainian scouting group, told The Guardian that the Homes for Ukraine scheme “has many problems and will eventually lead to a complete collapse.” ‘.
They offered me a room… in exchange for marriage.
Julia Skubenko didn’t know what to expect when she posted to a Facebook group in the desperate hope of finding a host in the UK.
Sharing a photo of herself smiling, she told the group’s 18,000 members that she never imagined she “would be forced to move to England.” [but] I have to start again’.
The 30-year-old shared links to her social media profiles and her mobile phone number.
Ms Skubenko, who moved to kyiv from a poor town and started her own cleaning business, said she loves horseback riding, dancing and reading, and would “get on her feet” as quickly as possible if she found a sponsor. to help her settle down. in the United Kingdom.
But along with an outpouring of generosity, Miss Skubenko, who has now found a host, was bombarded with messages from single men offering her a room, some asking for ‘marriage’.
When she told a man that she was only interested in houses with women living there, he wrote: “Too bad, we could have started a family.” Another one of hers claimed to own an oil company and a bank and offered to employ her as her ‘assistant to her’.
She said she did not believe these men were “writing out of compassion”, adding: “I am worried about the girls in my country.”
But along with an outpouring of generosity, Miss Skubenko, now found a host, was bombarded with messages from single men offering her a room, some asking for ‘marriage’.
She said: ‘A lot of people say: ‘Of course I can give a Ukrainian a room.’ But then the bills, the cost of the food, people may not think about that until you’ve come.
A spokesman for the Department of Graduation, Housing and Communities said: ‘We do not recognize these claims: more than 46,100 people have come through both schemes from Ukraine and the vast majority of them are adjusting well.
“Strong safeguards are in place for the Homes for Ukraine program and, according to council data reports, very few of these sponsorships are falling apart. When they do, councils can provide support or find a more suitable sponsor.’
It comes after a report earlier this month found that predatory men were exploiting the Homes for Ukraine refugee program to house single, vulnerable women fleeing Putin’s invasion, with “30% of sponsors in the UK being men over 40”.
Men with a history of domestic violence or abuse had reportedly messaged single Ukrainian women in their 20s and 30s in Facebook groups created especially to connect sponsors and hosts.
Other houses have been found to be wholly unsuitable for Ukrainians escaping Russian bombs, and a mother of two claimed that her entire family was expected to sleep in a small reception room off the kitchen, despite expecting Separate rooms.
She added that the property was littered with Nazi images and Soviet symbols, telling the BBC: “I don’t feel safe.”
The UN refugee agency warned last month of “increasing reports of Ukrainian women who feel at risk from their sponsors.”
UNHCR called for ‘the need for adequate safeguards and investigative measures against exploitation, as well as adequate support for sponsors’.
Boris Johnson’s government announced in March that the scheme would allow anyone in England to take in a family or an individual, if they agreed to criminal and housing background checks.
In response, local support networks and individuals set up numerous Facebook groups, and these have become one of the main ways of connecting Ukrainian families and UK sponsors.
And some councils are believed to be struggling with a lack of resources to properly settle refugees.
A UK government official told the BBC that security measures were in place, including “Home Office security and background checks on all sponsors, before visas are issued”, and at least one visit. from the council to the property of a sponsor.
In a Facebook group set up to help bring Ukrainian refugees together, BBC News found a potential sponsor who appears to live in a one-bedroom apartment and posts multiple offers to host young women. It is stated that he had multiple convictions, including for robbery and brawl.
Police records reportedly show he was reported for allegedly carrying a crossbow and threatening a former partner, although no further action is believed to have been taken.
Another man, in Manchester, joined several Facebook groups and was offering a spare room to a number of young single Ukrainian women. He was also a member of a dating site called Single Ukrainian Women.
It is not known if any of these men were approved under the Homes for Ukraine scheme.
The tips are intended to pass each property and complete Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) checks on all potential hosts they know, including those they contact via Facebook.
But basic DBS controls are limited, and enhanced controls are required only if children are involved.