People in Northern Ireland can offer to sponsor and house people fleeing conflict in Ukraine who have been granted visas under a new government scheme.
It is part of a UK-wide scheme to receive those fleeing the Russian invasion, called the ‘Homes for Ukraine Scheme’, and households will be offered £350 a month to participate.
The Executive Board has strongly encouraged expressions of interest, and these can be done through a online portal.
Read more:Ukrainian woman in Belfast tells how her terrified mother called as her city was bombed
Concerns had been raised about Northern Ireland’s contribution to Ukraine’s response in the absence of a serving first and deputy first minister to lead the effort.
Paul Givan resigned earlier this year as part of DUP action against Northern Ireland Protocol.
Patrick Corrigan of Amnesty International said: “I am concerned that the absence of a Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister, who have primary responsibility for refugee issues, has left the ‘Northern Ireland is lagging behind when it comes to playing its part in offering a welcome to refugees from Ukraine.’
Irish Prime Minister Micheal Martin said over the weekend that Ireland had so far accepted 5,500 refugees from Ukraine and could welcome more than 100,000.
We have gathered some information about the “Homes for Ukraine” program and how you can get involved.
What is the scheme?
The Homes for Ukraine Scheme enables individuals, charities, community groups and businesses in the UK to offer a free room or house to Ukrainians fleeing the war, whether or not they have ties to the country.
How to apply?
You can request the scheme by by clicking here.
If you have a named person you wish to sponsor, you should contact them directly and be prepared to complete a visa application with all of their contact information and yours. The visa application will go online on Friday, March 18.
If you don’t know anyone you want to sponsor, you may want to get in touch with local charities, faith groups, or community organizations that are beginning to connect people.
How long can refugees stay at NI?
Members of the public can nominate a Ukrainian person or family to stay with them for at least six months.
Sponsored Ukrainians will be granted three years’ leave to remain in the UK and will be able to work, apply for benefits and access public services during this time.
How much do hosts pay?
People providing accommodation for Ukrainian refugees will receive a payment of £350 per month, but this does not increase for additional people.
The money is designed to help cover housing costs for refugees, such as increased food and energy bills, as well as an incentive for people to participate.
The £350 payments will last just one year under current plans, although it remains possible that the policy could change as the end of the year nears, depending on take-up.
There is no cap on the number of Ukrainians who can benefit from it, with the government estimating that tens of thousands of people will use it.
Read more:Ukrainian woman reluctantly fleeing Kyiv for Belfast after Russian invasion
Read more:Meet the Polish Woman Leading Cookstown’s Ukrainian Aid Appeal
To get the latest news straight to your inbox, sign up for our free newsletter.