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War in Ukraine

Volume 719: debated on Monday 5 September 2022

The UK Government rapidly created the UK visa scheme to support Ukrainians seeking refuge from Putin’s barbaric invasion, each for a three-year period with full access to work, public funds and services. The Ukraine family scheme was the first of its kind to be operational anywhere in the world, and we should be proud of the role that our country has played in helping.

The UK was the first country anywhere in the world to operationalise its Ukraine visa scheme, welcoming thousands of people to this country. May I congratulate the Home Secretary and her officials on this feat, which was undertaken in a matter of days back in March? May I ask her to reaffirm that this country will continue to offer the support needed by Ukraine and its brave people, as she has always shown during her time at the Home Office?

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. The Government are consistently working hard to maximise the number of people in sponsorship schemes, as well as those coming through the visa routes. It is also worth noting that there has recently been an uptick in the number of people applying for these visas. That is because the scheme is not only successful, but generous, and is helping people who are in need of support right now.

I recently met one of the many refugees in my constituency. He was full of praise for how the system has worked for him, but concerns were raised about the lack of affordable housing in the south-west. What work is the Department doing with other Departments to ensure that there are no issues down the line?

My hon. Friend is absolutely right: housing remains a challenge, as we have always found through all the schemes that we have run, particularly the resettlement and refugee programmes. Work has taken place across other Departments, particularly the Cabinet Office and the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, which is responsible for housing. I think that reflects the fact that the sponsorship scheme has worked because of the generosity of the British public, who have been housing Ukrainian nationals. Of course we hope that the scheme will continue to be as vigorous and strong in that sense.

Many six-month placements under the Homes for Ukraine scheme are coming to an end. For many reasons, not least the cost of living crisis, lots of them will not be extended, yet the Government have not set out a clear plan for what happens next. Families risk being placed in temporary accommodation miles away from where they have begun to rebuild their lives. Will the Home Secretary take urgent action to ensure that host families are properly supported and that measures are put in place to ensure that where a placement cannot continue, families are assisted into decent rented accommodation or accommodation with another host family?

The hon. Lady is absolutely right—there is no dispute there whatever. Other Departments are involved in housing, working with local authorities and ensuring a smooth transfer and transition. The Homes for Ukraine scheme, clearly, was there for six months; the transition period is taking place now, in many cases. A whole-of-Government effort is being co-ordinated by the Cabinet Office, working with other Departments. I think we should always reflect on and recognise the generosity of the British public, but also how Departments and local councils in particular have been providing support to make sure that that continues.

Prior to the implementation of the UK family visa scheme, to which the Home Secretary has referred, some concern was expressed by the Government that there needed to be additional checks because not everyone coming from Ukraine could be relied on. Can she give us an update on how those checks have proceeded and how many people coming from Ukraine were identified as fraudulent?

Those checks are there for very good reasons—there is no question about that. When we look at the volatility and the instability in the region and many of the national security concerns, we can see that that those checks are absolutely legitimate. The record is clear in terms of the number of Ukrainian nationals who have come here. There are people who have been refused on legitimate grounds involving national security concerns, which we do not discuss publicly.