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Ukrainian Refugees in the UK: Are They Being Adequately Safeguarded?
In March, shortly after Russia invaded Ukraine, the UK government introduced the Homes for Ukraine refugee scheme. This scheme allows UK residents to open their homes to Ukrainian refugees for six or more months. This scheme entitles Ukrainian nationals to live in the UK for three years, during which time they’re allowed to work and have access to public services and benefits.
This scheme helps Ukrainians to escape danger and the war in their home country. However, protecting these individuals once they have arrived in the UK is also of the utmost importance.
To safeguard Ukrainian refugees, the government’s schemes called for potential hosts to undergo DBS checks and home inspections. However, between the significant influx of refugees (over 115,000 had arrived in early August) and the lack of government resources, there is a high risk for Ukrainians to be exploited. Below, we discuss this topic in detail, as well as solutions that may be of assistance.
Can Safeguarding Be Effectively Deployed In Short Timeframes & On Such Scale?
One of the most prominent concerns with the current Ukrainian refugee scheme is safeguarding these vulnerable individuals and ensuring they do not get placed in host homes where they can be exploited.
DBS checks play a vital role in safeguarding by preventing unsuitable applicants from becoming hosts. Currently, prospective hosts are required to obtain a DBS check and have their homes vetted against certain measures, such as having working smoke detectors on the property and full rooms for refugees to stay in.
Generally, potential hosts need to undergo a Basic DBS Check, while those who will be hosting children without a parent or legal guardian must complete an Enhanced DBS Check. The necessary forms for these checks are supplied by a host’s local council. Ideally, the aim is for this to be done before a refugee arrives, but in some cases, soon after they have arrived.
However, many hosts have complained that they are only receiving these forms weeks after refugees have arrived in their homes. This is an issue as it opens refugees to the possibility of being exploited or abused, as local authorities won’t receive the results of the DBS check until it’s too late.
At the end of July, UK government resources showed that approximately 119 000 visas had been issued to Ukrainians. Therefore there is clearly significant pressure on the Disclosure and Barring Service. Additionally, local councils may lack the resources to get DBS check applications to potential hosts in the required timeframe.
DBS Checks & Criminal Record Checks
What are the implications and risks for the refugee when full/effective safeguarding isn’t carried out?
In cases where safeguarding isn’t being carried out effectively, it opens up the possibility for refugees to be abused or exploited. When refugees enter the UK, they do not have the financial means to look after themselves nor the support or knowledge needed to get themselves out of an uncomfortable or dangerous situation.
The effects of poor safeguarding measures have already been felt by some Ukrainians, especially women. Some have even shown their UK hosts the awful messages sent privately to them by men.
Why Is It Important For Refugees To Undergo DBS Checks?
On the other hand, it is also vital that UK hosts are safeguarded as well. This is why refugees are also required to undergo checks. This is especially important for safeguarding host families where children are present, as some refugees may take advantage of the situation they find themselves in.