Hosts in Birmingham are waiting for 425 Ukrainian visa applications to be approved by the Home Office, as Birmingham City Council seeks to negotiate a new contract with a charity to help streamline resettlement.
Documents at a cabinet meeting at Birmingham City Council revealed that, up to April 12, 425 Ukrainians were awaiting approval of their visa application to a matched sponsor in Birmingham. The report claims 182 sponsors have offered accommodation to Ukrainian refugees.
But according to the Home Office’s own data, 134 visas – just under a third of the 425 sum – have been issued for Ukrainians who are sponsored under the Homes for Ukraine scheme.
Birmingham City Council hopes to negotiate a 12 month contract with Refugee Action, a provider of refugee resettlement, to almost £7.2 million per capita cost, to take in up to 1,000 refugees. With 425 refugees expected to arrive, they estimate the cost to be £3.1 million, though they note the Homes for Ukraine scheme is uncapped.
The charity has historically supported Syrian and Afghani refugees to build safe new lives in Birmingham under existing contracts with the council. The Labour-led local authority hopes the new contract can start “as soon as possible” to help Ukrainians in need.
The council also acknowledged, however, the financial support and provisions will be “time-limited” and “dependent upon available contingency resources”.
Will there be more applications for Ukrainians to move to Birmingham?
Tristan Chatfield, cabinet member for finance and resources, said: “The situation in Ukraine resulted from the war by Putin. We’ve seen huge numbers seeking refuge in other countries, including here in the UK. As you see in the report, sponsors being issued and visa application have increased rapidly.
“Birmingham is ready to play its part in welcoming our Ukrainian guests to the city. This number is likely to increase rapidly as well, and it’s worth bearing in mind this scheme, unlike some previous resettlement schemes, is uncapped.
“Previously we had taken 110 a year from the Syrian resettlement schemes. We’ve passed that number in the first six weeks of this scheme. The demand for places in the city is rising.”
Are there issues elsewhere with the Ukraine resettlement schemes?
Councillor Chatfield also gave his thanks to Brummies who have offered up parts of their homes to welcome those fleeing Ukraine.
It comes as protests took place outside parliament on Monday by would-be hosts of Ukrainian families, who said they are still waiting for their applications to be processed more than a month after submitting them. Two schemes have been set up to help settle Ukrainians into the UK: the ‘Homes for Ukraine’ scheme and the ‘Ukraine Family Scheme’.
The Guardian reported the would-be hosts presented MPs, including ex-prime minister Theresa May, a dossier of 986 cases where visas have been applied for but not yet granted. They report up to 866 families applied in the first two weeks of the scheme, which opened on March 18.
Multiple demonstrations outside Birmingham’s town hall in solidarity with the Ukrainian people, have also taken place on a weekly basis.
How many charities are helping resettle Ukrainians in the UK?
Robert Alden, leader of Birmingham Conservatives, questioned why the contract to resettle Ukrainian refugees was only tendered for one charity.
He said: “In terms of the comments made, I absolutely agree with the comments made. It shows the ‘Birmingham spirit’, and I echo those comments. I understand in these circumstances the need for an expedited process.
“I know we can’t do a full process, but why did we not choose to get three quotes so we have an idea of price and quality comparison, rather than just getting one quote and going with that?”
How many Ukrainians live in Birmingham already?
Professor Graeme Betts, director of adult social care at Birmingham city council, said the minimum length to hold a tendering process was 30 days. He said this was “too long” given the circumstances of Ukrainian refugees.
Data from the most recent census survey, conducted last year, shows Birmingham has the highest number of Ukrainians living in the local authority out of any other West Midlands borough, at 320. Birmingham City Council also has the largest numbers of Russians, at 550, and the second largest number of people born in Poland and Lithuania, at 9,320 and 1,370, respectively.
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