MESSAGE FROM DURHAM COUNTY COUNCIL
Durham County Council is conscious that given the horrific news coming out of Ukraine, members of the community are anxious to know what they can do to help. We have liaised with local organisations such as Durham Community Action and North East Churches Acting Together, as well as checking national websites, and the advice remains that the most effective way to assist, for those that can afford it, is through cash donations to reputable international support organisations such as those listed below. Such organisations have set up appeals on their websites and have teams in the region who know what is needed by the families trying to leave for their safety.
- The British Red Cross, which has launched an appeal to help the Ukrainian Red Cross to provide food, medicine, clothing and shelter, as well as first aid training in bomb shelters and, in the last few days, 15,000 litres of drinking water to villages in eastern Ukraine.
- The UNHCR refugee agency, which is funding emergency shelters, repairs for homes damaged by shelling, emergency cash assistance, psychological support and warm clothing.
- Unicef, the UN’s children’s charity, which is helping to ensure families have clean water and food and that child health and protection services continue.
- Save the Children, which is providing cash assistance, food and other support to refugees crossing into Romanian and Lithuania, as well as in Ukraine itself.
In terms of the UK offering a place of refuge for those escaping the horrors unfolding in Ukraine, the Home Secretary made an announcement with regard to two routes that people may enter the UK. The first related to an extension of the Family Migration Route, whereby a Ukrainian seeking refuge can enter the UK when they have a family link to someone already resident in the UK. The government has announced that they will be relaxing the eligibility around this route, and a wider range of family members, including grandparents and adult children, will be able to stay in the UK for 12 months with access to public funds and services. Further details on the technicalities of the scheme are still awaited. The numbers of people that might seek refuge in County Durham, will depend on the numbers of people already living here who have family members in Ukraine. We have asked if the council will be informed by the Home Office if family members are granted permission to live in the county so we might coordinate support to help them to settle, but if the scheme follows earlier experiences, this is unlikely to be provided.
The second method through which people might enter the UK is through a Humanitarian Sponsorship Pathway. Once again, details as to how this will operate are awaited, but in this case the Ukrainians do not have to have a family connection with the UK, but can be sponsored to stay for 12 months by an individual, charity, business or community group. Again, we have asked for clarity on aspects of this scheme, in particular, what resources will be available to the Ukrainians and the sponsoring organisation and whether they will be expected to meet the costs of the families for the 12 months they will have permission to stay in the UK. This information is important to help people make decisions.
Given there are still a number of uncertainties over the two schemes, we are not actively seeking offers of accommodation from individuals at present. We are aware that councillors or councils may be approached by residents offering a place in their home, or use of a vacant property. If anyone if approached in this way then please pass on their details to firstname.lastname@example.org and we will keep their offer on record and contact them once we have further details on the sponsorship scheme.
If you are approached by residents seeking advice on supporting British Nationals and their dependents in Ukraine, a dedicated helpline has been established by the Home Office. The number for the helpline is + 44 300 3032785 and it is open 24 hours a day.
We have also been informed by the North East Migration Partnership that a new pro-bono referral scheme has been launched by a group of volunteer legal professionals to give advice to Ukrainian nationals on immigration status. The lawyers who have volunteered to give advice are experts in UK visas and refugee rules but not how to travel out of Ukraine or around Europe. More information on this service can be found here.