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Briton searching for Ukrainian refugee in Poland ‘surprised’ by lack of guidance

Max Fox is offering a room in his Lancashire home to a Ukrainian he hopes to meet in Przemysl, near the Ukrainian border.

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Max Fox (right) and his husband, Arturo Echeverria, want to give a room in their home to a Ukrainian refugee (Max Fox/PA)

Max Fox (right) and his husband, Arturo Echeverria, want to give a room in their home to a Ukrainian refugee (Max Fox/PA)

Max Fox (right) and his husband, Arturo Echeverria, want to give a room in their home to a Ukrainian refugee (Max Fox/PA)

A British man who has travelled to Poland to “proactively search” for a Ukrainian to whom he can offer a room has criticised the Government’s lack of guidance.

Max Fox is in Przemysl, near the Ukrainian border, where he is helping humanitarian efforts through the Caritas Internationalis charity. He would like to offer space in the two-bedroom flat in Poulton-le-Fylde, Lancashire, that he shares with his husband, Arturo Echeverria.

“I’m hoping today’s the day that I find somebody… I’ll be proactively searching today,” the 32-year-old told the PA news agency on Friday.

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Mr Fox flew to Poland from Manchester on Thursday (Max Fox)

Mr Fox flew to Poland from Manchester on Thursday (Max Fox)

Mr Fox flew to Poland from Manchester on Thursday (Max Fox)

On Friday afternoon, Mr Fox said he was heading to Krakow to meet a man in his mid-20s whom he found online and who is eager to leave the refugee camp for “any country”.

“He speaks no English but is keen to learn… (I) will rely on Google translate for now and see if the Government provides assistance in language programmes,” Mr Fox added.

He said he will support the refugee financially to help him fly to the UK.

The first phase of the Homes For Ukraine programme allows UK sponsors to nominate a named Ukrainian or family to stay with them in their home or in a separate property. Those offering to host will be vetted and Ukrainian applicants will undergo security checks.

It was launched on Friday with more detailed guidance about the scheme, but concerns have been raised over how it will work in practice.

“I am surprised by the lack of guidance so far,” Mr Fox said.

“We have been given no information of when the Government will have finished their vetting ‘checks’ for both sponsors and Ukrainians.

“I see no Government representatives on the ground providing support and guidance to Ukrainians so, unless you’re like me, I don’t know how people will do it.”

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Mr Fox has been helping in a refugee centre in Przemysl where there are many children and young families (Max Fox)

Mr Fox has been helping in a refugee centre in Przemysl where there are many children and young families (Max Fox)

Mr Fox has been helping in a refugee centre in Przemysl where there are many children and young families (Max Fox)

Mr Fox and his husband are willing to take in anyone needing a home, but would also be open to adopting an orphan if they are legally allowed to do so.

Having planned to arrive in Poland on Monday, after losing his passport Mr Fox travelled from Manchester on Thursday with 88lb (40kg) of chocolate, sweets and dog chews to offer to Ukrainian families.

He arrived in Przemysl, a 30-minute journey from the Ukrainian border, on Thursday evening.

“Przemysl is in a state of chaos,” Mr Fox said.

“The volunteering efforts from people from different countries around the world are incredible… but it’s very, very hard to keep up with trains arriving every hour.”

Mr Fox said that, despite him taking “hundreds and hundreds” of chocolate bars to hand out, they lasted less than an hour due to the sheer number of refugees.

He shared a video with PA of himself singing Let It Go, from the Disney film Frozen, as he handed out the items to young children.

“I’ve attached myself to the Caritas charity to work with them, putting a smile on the kids’ faces and being a shoulder to cry on for the mums who are in a state of despair,” he said.

“They’ve lost their homes, their livelihoods and their husbands and are living in hope that they can go home soon. It’s truly devastating.”

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Mr Fox (Max Fox)

Mr Fox (Max Fox)

Mr Fox (Max Fox)

Mr Fox, an artistic director for a group of hotels in Blackpool, said he has to return to the UK on Sunday for work but plans to go back to Poland next week to continue helping.

Before he flew to Poland, he told PA he was doing so because he had concerns he would not know the person he would be taking into his home.

“I think you’ve got to gel… I want to bring somebody into my home that I will have a good relationship with,” he said.

“So, I think the best thing to do is just to fly out there and get to know people, and see who actually wants to come out here and who wants to come over to the UK.”

James Cleverley told the House of Commons on March 7 that the Government had “established a temporary consular presence in Przemysl which can provide initial consular assistance for those arriving in Southern Poland from Ukraine”.

The Government’s Humanitarian Response Team have also been working in the Polish city of Rzeszow and in a tweet on Thursday the Foreign Office said it is providing £220 million in humanitarian aid to Ukraine, including medical supplies and medicines, thermal blankets and heated tents.

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