Barnet and Camden top for sponsoring Ukrainian families

Camden Council staff welcome refugees from Ukraine at St Pancras

Camden Council staff welcome refugees from Ukraine at St Pancras - Credit: Camden Council

Barnet and Camden are the top areas in London for taking in Ukrainian families through the government's sponsorship scheme, following the Russian invasion.

Under the Homes for Ukraine sponsorship scheme, as of April 6, 132 visas had been issued in Barnet and 107 in Camden, putting them second and fourth in the country.

In Buckinghamshire 151 visas have been issued, and 116 in Edinburgh.

The provisional data, published by the Home Office and the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, is for a scheme which allows Ukrainian nationals and their family members to come to the UK if they have a named sponsor.

Visas have been issued to local authorities based on the postcode of the sponsor’s address, or of the accommodation address if the applicant is not staying with the sponsor.

In Haringey, 78 visas have been issued, with 65 in Islington, 34 in Brent and 82 in Westminster.

At a meeting of Camden Council on Wednesday, politicians were urged to plan long term support for people fleeing the war and humanitarian crisis in Ukraine.

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Resident Peter Ptashko thanked the council for its work to welcome Ukrainian refugees arriving by international train at St Pancras station. His grandfather came to the UK to flee war and persecution at the end of World War Two and Mr Ptashko said: "We hoped it was behind us."

He said offering a sanctuary to refugees, including those from the Ukraine and Afghanistan, is very important.

Camden Council is running a welcome centre to support refugees arriving at St Pancras. It helps refugees with their onward journeys, offers essential items such as toiletries, food and water, and connect them with relatives and sponsors.

Mr Ptashko  said: “Camden as a borough has a spirit of solidarity with Ukraine whilst others have done nothing."

But he said with more than four million people displaced by the war, “we know this country has not done enough”.

“It has not welcomed enough refugees in and I know as a borough we would like to offer more support,” he added. “So we simply have to hold the government to account in the sense of taking in more refugees. We have a will, we have to find a way.

“My home country is fighting for peace, justice and fairness on the international stage.”

Camden leader Georgia Gould told Wednesday's council meeting: “The horror and devastation is appalling. There are no words for it.”

She said people “don’t have weeks” to escape and it is crucial to do everything to provide them with sanctuary.

Conservative opposition leader Oliver Cooper warned that refugees may not have the option to return to the Ukraine soon. He wants to ensure that they are given support in house at the council from people with Ukrainian language skills.

Cllr Gould agreed that people “will be here longer than the six months” of the Homes for Ukraine programme.

South Hampstead Synagogue is fundraising to equip 10 operating theatres in Ukraine and hopes to support more. It wants to offer a day centre offering “wraparound care” for people so they can enjoy familiar food, songs and culture together after such traumatic times.

Rabbi Shlomo Levin said those who are unable to offer refuge in their homes as part of the Homes for Ukraine programme would be welcome to help.

On Friday, in a pre-recorded interview with the BBC, home secretary Priti Patel denied visa requirements and checks are slowing the process and causing delays, insisting the UK will “absolutely see changes in numbers” as work continues.

As of March 31, around 4,700 visas had been issued under the sponsorship scheme out of 32,200 applications submitted, according to Home Office figures.

Ms Patel said it is “always easy to blame someone else” but security checks “are not the problem” when it comes to the time it is taking for Ukrainian refugees to reach the UK.

She said she is "streamlining processes" for applying for visas.