Statement on 'Homes for Ukraine'
"The willingness of the public, including many within the Jewish community, to support and welcome Ukrainian refugees is extremely heart-warming. As a community with a long history of seeking refuge, it has been hugely uplifting to see Britons respond so empathetically to those fleeing the conflict.
The number of people already offering to host Ukrainian refugees is remarkable. Such broad compassion and incredible generosity further confirms that the government’s regressive refugee policies, including the cruel Nationality and Borders Bill, are completely out of touch with public sentiment.
However, while JCORE welcomes the introduction of any scheme which enables people escaping violence and persecution to reach safety in the UK, we do hold concerns about aspects of the ‘Homes for Ukraine’ scheme.
It cannot be right that asides from those with family members in the UK, Ukrainians fleeing the conflict will need to be personally nominated to receive protections in this country. Refugees escaping war should not require visas and extensive bureaucracy to reach safety. If the government is serious about representing public opinion, then it should follow the example of our European neighbours and waive all visa restrictions for Ukrainian refugees. We are also concerned that the scheme’s implementation will place undue pressure on charities and civil society groups.
It is also critical that rigorous safeguarding checks are put in place: the government must ensure vulnerable people are not put in positions which could result in exploitation. Reports that hosts may only be subject to ‘light-touch’ criminal checks are deeply concerning.
It is crucial that the government does not see the incredible public solidarity and kindness offered to Ukrainian refugees as an opportunity to abdicate its own responsibility. We urge it to instead step up, and ensure safe routes to this country are readily accessible to those fleeing conflict and persecution, and to treat all seeking sanctuary in this country with dignity and respect. This includes providing suitable accommodation for all refugees. It is shocking that six months on from Operation Warm Welcome, thousands of Afghans remain stuck in bridging hotels. Housing conditions for many others seeking asylum are also appalling.
Furthermore, it is unsettling that this scheme, which rightly engages public sentiment to welcome Ukrainian refugees, is being implemented alongside the government’s Nationality and Borders Bill, which would criminalize many people escaping persecution and conflict. The government must respect the Refugee Convention, and ensure that all in need of sanctuary can access the UK’s asylum system: it cannot divide refugee groups, and pick and choose who it is willing to support based on nationality, or as proposed under the Nationality and Borders Bill, method of entry to this country.”