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Amnesty criticise ‘botched’ Homes for Ukraine scheme after delays in payment and background checks


Patrick Corrigan

Patrick Corrigan

Patrick Corrigan

Amnesty International has criticised the “botched” Homes for Ukraine scheme which has left households here out of pocket and still waiting support payments.

The Executive Office issued an apology on Tuesday after concerns were raised that none of those who registered for the scheme had received the £350 monthly ‘thank you’ payment for taking part.

In March, more than 6,000 local people had registered their interest in housing refugees fleeing the war.

The Executive Office told the Belfast Telegraph that the extensive requirements for background checks was behind the delay.

It added five safeguarding checks had to be carried out before any payments can be made in order to ensure the safety and welfare of both the refugees and their sponsors.

It revealed 479 addresses had been referred for home visits, with 397 completed.

But only 22 hosts had successfully completed all five checks so far.

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The checks include a visit to the accommodation to ensure it exists and is of an acceptable standard; Access NI checks on the sponsors; Health and Social Care safeguarding checks on the household, and a visit after arrival to confirm the guests are in the property and it meets their needs.

Patrick Corrigan, Northern Ireland Programme Director for Amnesty International UK said that delays in carrying out background checks and making payments to host families in Northern Ireland are “just the latest out workings of the botched Home Office approach to refugees from Ukraine.”

“The insistence on visas and sponsorship schemes for traumatised Ukrainians fleeing an active warzone, means that relatively few have been able to seek safety here while the rest of Europe shares the responsibility,” he said.

“This contrast in treatment is very obvious on the island of Ireland, where the Republic of Ireland has now welcomed an estimated 36,000 people, while the number coming to Northern Ireland is still in the hundreds.

“This despite more than 6,000 Northern Ireland households registering for the Homes for Ukraine scheme in a show of practical solidarity,” he added.

“The problems with the asylum system sit at the door the of the Home Office, but Stormont can at least mitigate some of the worst impacts through good work across government departments to support refugees who make it here.”

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