Hosts in Birmingham are waiting for 425 Ukrainian visa applications to be approved by the Home Office as Birmingham City Council seeks to negotiate a new contract with a charity to help streamline resettlement.
Documents at a cabinet meeting in Birmingham City Council today revealed that until April 12, 425 Ukrainians awaited approval of their visa application for a matched sponsor in Birmingham. The report claims that 182 sponsors in Birmingham have offered housing to Ukrainian refugees.
But according to the Interior Ministry’s own data, 134 visas have been issued – just under a third of the 425 amounts – to Ukrainians sponsored under the Homes for Ukraine scheme.
READ MORE:From ollies to kickflips: Birmingham skate parks will be an important battleground for elections
Birmingham City Council is hoping to negotiate a 12-month contract with Refugee Action, a refugee resettlement provider, for almost £ 7.2 million per year. per capita, to receive up to 1,000 refugees. With 425 refugees expected to arrive, they estimate the cost to be £ 3.1 million, although they note that the Homes for Ukraine scheme is unlimited.
The charity has historically supported Syrian and Afghan refugees to build secure new lives in Birmingham, a city of refuge, under existing contracts with the council. The Labor-led local authority hopes the new contract can begin “as soon as possible” to help Ukrainians in need. However, the Council also acknowledged that the financial support and provisions would be “time-limited” and “dependent on available contingency resources”.
Tristan Chatfield, Cabinet member for Finance and Resources, said: “The situation in Ukraine was the result of Putin’s war. We have seen a large number of seek refuge in other countries, including here in the UK. As you can see in the report, sponsorship and visa applications have increased quickly.
“Birmingham is ready to play its part in welcoming our Ukrainian guests to the city. This number is also likely to increase rapidly, and it is worth remembering that this scheme, unlike some previous resettlement schemes, is without a ceiling.
“Previously, we had taken 110 a year from the Syrian resettlement schemes. We have passed that figure in the first six weeks of this scheme. The demand for places in the city is increasing.”
What does something mean to you in this local election? Tell us in our survey.
Councilor Chatfield also thanked the Brummies, who have offered parts of their homes to welcome those fleeing Ukraine.
It comes as protests took place outside parliament on Monday by potential hosts of Ukrainian families, who said they were still waiting for their applications to be processed more than a month after submitting them. Two schemes have been set up to help settle Ukrainians in the UK: the ‘Home for Ukraine’ scheme and the ‘Ukraine Family Scheme’.
The Guardian reported that the upcoming hosts presented MPs, including former Prime Minister Theresa May, a case involving 986 cases in which visas have been applied for but not yet granted. They report that up to 866 families have applied in the first two weeks of the scheme, which opened on March 18. Several demonstrations outside Birmingham City Hall in solidarity with the Ukrainian people have also taken place on a weekly basis.
Robert Alden, head of the Birmingham Conservatives, questioned why the contract to resettle Ukrainian refugees was offered to only one charity.
He said: “With regard to the comments made, I fully agree with the comments made. It shows the ‘Birmingham spirit’ and I repeat these comments. Under these circumstances, I understand the need for an expedited process. I know very well that we can not do a full process, but why did we choose not to obtain three offers, so we have an idea of price and quality comparison, rather than just get an offer and go with it? ”
Professor Graeme Betts, director of social care for adults at Birmingham City Council, said the minimum length to hold a tender process was 30 days. He said this was “too long” given the circumstances of Ukrainian refugees.
Data from the latest census, conducted last year, shows that Birmingham has the highest number of Ukrainians living in the local authority out of any other district in the West Midlands, at 320. Birmingham City Council also has the largest number of Russians, with 550, and the second largest number of persons born in Poland and Lithuania with 9,320 and 1,370 respectively.
Get Midlands political news and analytics straight to your inbox with the Midlands Message newsletter.