by Amy Jones
Monday, 14
March 2022
Analysis
17:15

Britain’s refugee hosts need vetting too

Vulnerable Ukrainians should be protected from exploitation
by Amy Jones
Refugees fleeing Ukraine arrive at the Slovakian border. Credit: Getty

After spending weeks dithering over how many refugees to accept from Ukraine, the Government has finally announced their landmark “Homes for Ukraine” policy. Rather than a government-led scheme that would enable refugees to live independently in social housing, the policy instead relies on individuals offering their own homes to Ukrainians, and paying them £350 a month to do so.

The scheme has been met with huge public support. According to one survey, nearly one in three Brits said they would be willing to give a struggling Ukrainian refugee a roof over their head.

Some, however, have raised concerns about the scheme. Mark Harper MP, for instance, has warned of Russian sleeper agents who will be waiting for the opportunity to undertake another Salisbury style attack. This is a legitimate worry, but in many ways the Ukrainian refugees are far more at risk from people in Britain. These are, after all, mostly traumatised women and children who may have a limited grasp of the language. In the space of a few weeks, they have found themselves isolated in a strange country, trying to find a home in a stranger’s house.

Predators seek out vulnerable people, and Britain has a far from stellar record when it comes to preventing the exploitation of people in need of a place to stay. In fact, during the pandemic, the number of individuals demanding sexual favours in exchange for rent increased, with an estimated 30,000 women offered sex-for-rent between March and September 2020. There have already been grim reports of Ukrainian refugees being harmed, including a 19-year-old Ukrainian who was raped by a Polish man after he promised her a free room and shelter.

It is not just dodgy landlords that refugees need to be wary of. Human trafficking is also rife in the UK, with one estimate by the UN suggesting that 136,000 people had been trafficked in a single year. As the head of the UN refugee agency recently said:

You have to worry about any potential risks for trafficking — but also exploitation, and sexual exploitation and abuse. These are the kinds of situations that people like traffickers … look to take advantage of.
- Joung-ah Ghedini-Williams

When it was finally announced that there would be some background checks on those accepting Ukrainian refugees into their homes, this was immediately denounced as bureaucracy gone mad. But if anything, the checks are unlikely to go far enough. Prosecutions for “sex for rent” agreements are few and far between; it’s easy for a trafficking gang to find someone without a criminal record or an exploitative landlord to avoid the law. More thought needs to be given on how to protect these refugees and stop them from being preyed upon.

As important as it is to care for those fleeing Ukraine, we must ensure that we do not fall into the trap of making a bad situation even worse. In outsourcing its responsibility to house refugees, the Government may well have created a situation rife with danger.

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Stephen Walshe
Stephen Walshe
3 months ago

The unhinged rushed to take in as many migrants as possible from a destitute country of 44 million with a history of corruption, criminality and sex trafficking, without any cap, costing, vetting or plan, will not end well. And the social media mob demanding it now will soon be complaining about rising rents, homelessness, attacks on women and healthcare waiting lists. We should be compassionate, but not irrational.

Sharon Overy
Sharon Overy
3 months ago

The government is not “outsourcing its responsibility”, there is literally nowhere else to put them because of the stupid number of people constantly being shovelled into the country!
We already have some 45,000 ‘refugees’ being housed in hotels because there’s no alternative, the waiting list for social housing being approx 1 million.

And yet the virtue-signallers are beside themselves in excitement at the thought of destroying two countries at once – Britain, by swamping us and Ukraine by denuding it of people who might easily return when safe to do so if they were in Poland.

Frederick B
Frederick B
3 months ago
Reply to  Sharon Overy

Well said!

David Bell
David Bell
3 months ago

It makes a change to accept genuine refugees instead of the males of fighting age who have abandoned their womenfolk back home in pursuit of economic gain.

Last edited 3 months ago by David Bell
Matt M
Matt M
3 months ago

In outsourcing its responsibility to house refugees, the Government may well have created a situation rife with danger

There are as many examples of vulnerable people being abused in state run accommodation. Look at those poor girls in local authority care in Rotherham and elsewhere that became victims to grooming gangs.

Peter LR
Peter LR
3 months ago

Yes, I assumed people would need a DBS check first. That system would easily get clogged up and slow down availability of accommodation. I imagine any social housing or hotel rooms have all been taken up by the 30,000 who crossed the Channel last year.

D Glover
D Glover
3 months ago

The UK has a housing shortage, caused mainly by a lack of places in which to build. The UK imports half the food it needs. The NHS has a record waiting list; two years for some procedures.
It is humane and attractive to solve the world’s problems; Hong Kong; Syria; Ukraine; Somalia, by giving refuge. It is also impossible in this small country.
In one chapter of her novel ‘Should we stay or should we go’ the writer Lionel Shriver imagines an England so full of refugees that they break into old people’s houses and squat in vacant bedrooms. Far fetched? Well, we do have a lot of old people whose family have left them, living in houses that are now too large.
This ‘adopt a Ukrainian’ scheme may be pointing to a future where we have to double-up.