Life in Ukraine currently threatens millions of people. Refugee numbers are at record highs; with more than 5.3 million people having fled their homes in Ukraine since February 2022.
Urgent action and appeals have been launched by countries all over the world to receive, house and aid the recovery of Ukrainian refugees. As of April 26th, the numbers of refugee intake by neighbouring countries are as follows:
Poland - 2,944,164 refugees
Romania - 793,420
Russia - 627,512
Hungary - 502,142
Moldova - 437,362
Slovakia - 360,458
Belarus - 24,719
However, it is believed that about 12 million people are stranded or unable to leave areas affected by the war.
The Nationality and Borders bill
The Uk’s Nationality and Border Bill seeks to; increase the fairness of the system to better protect and support those in need of asylum, deter illegal entry, and more easily remove those with no right to be in the UK.
The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) has raised serious concerns, warning that the Bill undermines the 1951 Refugee Convention, the agreement which has protected refugees for decades.
Asylum changes according to UNHCR
Restricted access to asylum through the introduction of a two-tiered approach, allowing only refugees who come to the UK through so-called safe and legal pathways, to have access to the full benefits of the 1951 Refugee Convention.
Declaring many applicants “inadmissible” and ineligible to claim asylum within the UK due to their connection with a country the UK deems unsafe, including countries they have never been to.
Introducing the possibility of “externalisation”, meaning the Home Secretary can send asylum seekers to other countries that they deem safe.
Introducing a new criminal offence of arriving in the UK without entry clearance.
Changes to asylum procedures and safeguards, including accelerated appeals processes, centralised age assessment, and higher standards of proof.
Restricting access to the National Referral Mechanism for victims of trafficking.
This bill has massive fallback effects on asylum seekers from the Ukrainian crisis and is already affecting the UK’s refugee intake through the comparatively smaller allowance of refugees entering the UK, than other countries in the EU.
UK’s response to the Ukrainian crisis
The UK has been criticised for not allowing as many Ukrainian refugees to enter compared to other European states. One initiative scheme you may be aware of is the ‘family visa scheme’. This scheme was launched at the start of March, which allows Ukrainian citizens, who have a family member in the UK (with British nationality, indefinite leave to remain, settled status or proof of permanent residence), to apply for their visa.
However, the scheme has been criticised due to the extreme difference in the number of refugees who have arrived in the UK (10,800), compared to the number of those that have applied (36,300) or have been issued a UK visa (28,500). In addition to this criticism, EU countries are allowing Ukrainian refugees for up to three years without a visa, compared to the UK’s slow and difficult visa application and approval process.
The government has also started the ‘Homes for Ukraine’ sponsorship scheme, in which refugees who do not have family in the UK, can stay with communities, private sponsors or local authorities who are offering to house them. Those offering to host a refugee receive £350 a month, tax-free, for up to 12 months to support their refugee housing. Local authorities also receive £10,500 in extra funding per refugee for support services, with more for children of school age.
If you want to find out more about how to get involved in sponsoring Ukrainian Refugees, you can visit the UK government ‘Homes for Ukraine’ webpage here.
There are many other ways you can support Ukrainian refugees, such as:
Showing support at local fundraisers, protests, and marches.
Donating money, food, toiletries, clothing items or bedding.
Having conversations with refugees and amplifying their stories and experiences.
Spreading helpful links, educational information and protest content online.
Visiting crowdsourced information platforms such as 'Real ways you can help Ukraine as a foreigner'.
Getting involved in charity events, such as Refugee Women Connect’s programmes.
Refugee Women Connect (RWC)
Refugee Women Connect is a Liverpool-based charity organisation that is dedicated to helping asylum seekers and refugee women, who face inequality and social injustice.
"Refugee Women Connect is committed to creating a diverse and inclusive team."
RWC believes strongly in curating and involving a diverse and inclusive breadth of service users, volunteers, and employees. Their service welcomes perspectives from backgrounds that vary by race, ethnicity, social background, religion, gender identity, age, disability, sexual orientation, and nationality.
What do they offer?
Through providing extensive outreach programs, emotional support services, practical support, legal advice, appointment assistance and promotion of social inclusion, RCW exercises their key ethical values - 'community', 'equality', and 'empathy'. One of the weekly programs is an art drop-in session, which allows volunteers to creatively express their emotions through a safe outlet.
In response to the Ukraine crisis, RCW has put together a detailed outsourcing list of information that is available for; Ukrainian refugees, online information sessions for ‘Housing for Ukraine’ sponsors, and more information on how to help as a supporter. You can access this here.
RWC offers drop-in and one-to-one support sessions to help those claiming asylum, who have been refused or been granted leave to remain. RWC offers drop-in and one-to-one support sessions, to offer; mental health support, self-esteem support groups and one to one emotional support. They are also able to educate and support women who may not know their rights when seeking asylum.
To find out how to access support for yourself, or someone you know you can access more information here.