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Safeguarding concerns as lone Ukrainian children being ‘matched’ with strangers under hosting scheme

Lone children fleeing Ukraine are being housed with adults under the UK’s refugee schemes scheme with out correct checks going down, The Independent can reveal.

More than 200,000 Britons have signed as much as the federal government programme which permits UK sponsors to “match” with Ukrainians fleeing the battle. In complete 1,200 refugees have arrived under the scheme up to now, whereas an extra 10,800 have come under the household scheme, which permits Ukrainian refugees to affix relations in Britain.

But whereas the federal government claims unaccompanied children will not be eligible for both scheme, The Independent is conscious of instances wherein minors have been granted visas and arrived within the UK and not using a authorized guardian.

Authorities warn that gaps within the vetting course of imply instances are “falling through the net”, prompting concerns about exploitation and trafficking, with greater than 4.5 million Ukrainian children displaced in current weeks, a few of whom have been separated from mother and father and household.

The Local Government Association (LGA), which represents councils, mentioned authorities had seen lone children arriving with none grownup who had parental or caring accountability for them.

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Refugees from Ukraine in non permanent lodging in Krakow, Poland

(Anadolu Agency through Getty)

Lisa Nandy, Labour’s shadow levelling up secretary, mentioned native authorities and charities had been getting “far too little information and support” on reply.

Describing the scenario as “disgraceful”, she added: “This was always a risk with this DIY refugee scheme. The government should have taken charge of matching sponsors to refugees from day one.

“Before Michael Gove launched Homes for Ukraine he didn’t even pick up the phone to councils and charities – the people who would be responsible for looking after vulnerable children.”

The LGA mentioned it was “unclear” if councils had been anticipated to take unaccompanied children into care. In one case, an unaccompanied baby not too long ago arrived in Redbridge council after being matched with an unrelated grownup under the Homes for Ukraine scheme.

The council mentioned it didn’t have safeguarding concerns concerning the case, however that it will observe up with the Home Office to raised perceive what safeguarding checks had been accomplished when agreeing to the match.

Britons have been opening their houses to refugees however the course of has been criticised as ‘DIY’

(PA Wire)

When an application is made to the Homes for Ukraine scheme – which might solely occur as soon as the applicant has discovered a sponsor who can host them within the UK – the “match” seems on a portal that native councils can entry in order that they will start finishing up safeguarding checks.

But the LGA has mentioned that in some instances councils are solely being instructed who’s arriving of their native space as soon as matches have been made and visa granted, with many reporting “significant issues” with the information.

The organisation additionally known as for councils to be given advance discover of recent arrivals under the household scheme, particularly if there are people or households with vulnerabilities, to allow native providers to fulfill their wants.

Kevin Bonavia, of Lewisham Council, mentioned some locals had tried to match with unaccompanied minors, including: “Fortunately none have been approved as yet, but we’re worried that they will be and we will need to scramble to intervene.

“We’ve heard of this happening in another council, so it’s a real concern. We can’t allow vulnerable children to fall through the net.”

Sian Summers-Rees, of charity City of Sanctuary UK, described one case of a pair that utilized to sponsor two 17-year-olds they met through social media, and had been reportedly instructed after they contacted Home Office that the children had been eligible under the sponsorship scheme.

“The ones coming to our attention are people who are well-intentioned, but obviously there’s a massive concern that there are people who are signing up to it for sinister reasons. There are serious exploitation and trafficking concerns,” she mentioned.

“We also know of cases where minors have arrived with people who are not their parents or carers.”

Steve Crocker, of the Association of Directors of Children’s Services, mentioned the Ukraine schemes had been “not designed with unaccompanied children in mind”.

He mentioned: “We continue to raise the need for any current and future arrangements for Ukrainian refugees to be child-focused and for local authorities to get necessary information, including about the age of arrivals, as soon as possible so that we can plan accordingly, and so children’s needs can be met in the short and long term.”

A authorities spokesperson mentioned councils ought to use regular safeguarding processes if an unaccompanied Ukrainian baby arrives.

This map exhibits the extent of the Russian invasion of Ukraine

(Press Association Images)

Claire O’Meara, of Unicef, mentioned: “Whilst the scheme offers a valuable route for those fleeing the war, it has not been designed to support unaccompanied children who require additional care and support. 

“There is a fine balance between getting children to safety as quickly as possible whilst doing so in a way that does not cause further harm or trauma. Unaccompanied children must therefore only be brought to the UK where it is in their best interests to do so, and their safety can be ensured.”

A authorities spokesperson mentioned safeguarding checks had been in place and would guarantee visa functions from unaccompanied minors weren’t authorised by the Home Office.

The Independent has a proud historical past of campaigning for the rights of probably the most weak, and we first ran our Refugees Welcome marketing campaign throughout the battle in Syria in 2015. Now, as we renew our marketing campaign and launch this petition within the wake of the unfolding Ukrainian disaster, we’re calling on the federal government to go additional and quicker to make sure assistance is delivered. To discover out extra about our Refugees Welcome marketing campaign, click on right here. To signal the petition click here. If you wish to donate then please click here for our GoFundMe web page.

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