Bristol is a proud City of Sanctuary: a place of welcome and safety for all, including people fleeing violence and persecution, working to alleviate hardship and celebrate diversity and inclusion. Since April 2021, we have resettled 75 people through the UK resettlement scheme, as well as providing support to hundreds of Afghans following the fall of their government last summer.
We are working with the city’s refugee charities and other partners to support Ukrainians already in Bristol. Through shows of support, including the lighting of City Hall and joint statements of solidarity with Ukraine and mayors there, our city is sending a message. But I also want to highlight practical ways that Bristolians can consider showing their support.
National government has now announced a new sponsorship scheme called Homes for Ukraine, which allows Ukrainians with no family ties in the UK to be sponsored by individuals who can offer them a home. Applications to become a host opened on Monday 14 March at https://homesforukraine.campaign.gov.uk/. On Friday 18 March, Phase One of the visa application route will open for sponsors and named contacts to apply to the scheme. Security checks and safeguarding measures will be put in place as further details are confirmed by the Government. In less than 24 hours, more than 100,000 people in the UK have offered to take part.
Ukrainians will be eligible to live and work here for up to three years, and access benefits, healthcare, employment and other support. Sponsors are asked to provide rooms within a family home or self contained accommodation rent free, they are not asked to provide food and subsistence. Sponsors need to be UK citizens or have at least six months leave to remain in the UK, and have a named person who they wish to sponsor; they will be eligible for payments of £350 per month for up to 12 months. There is no cap on places, and council are expected to receive funding of £10,500 per person (with extra available for child education).
We would also ask anyone who can offer practical support to get in touch – particularly those with Ukrainian language skills – to help us coordinate, support, and welcome people to Bristol. email@example.com
Bristol residents who do have friends and family in Ukraine, who they would like to sponsor, please contact the national website https://homesforukraine.campaign.gov.uk/
We welcome this move by the Government, but we see this as an ad hoc and top-down approach, launched because the Home Office failed to respond quickly to our obligations. The political decisions that created a “hostile environment” for refugees has left us as a country with a system unable to respond to humanitarian crises. There is a reason this work has had to be moved from the Home Office to the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities: it’s because delivery happens at a local authority level.
I shared at Full Council that our condemnation of Putin’s oppressive, unequal regime and his aggression is unequivocable and support for the Ukrainian people is unconditional. I cannot unsee some of the scenes I have seen. I have deep concerns about the treatment of black and brown migrants caught up in this crisis. This is significant for Ukraine, bordering countries, destinations beyond them and journalists.
It is painful that within the scenes of desperation of those seeking to flee sites of conflict in the Ukraine, there are distressing accounts of those seemingly being denied the same opportunity to seek refuge on the basis of race. The coverage by some media is inconsistent with they way they reported on humanitarian disasters in other parts of the world. Afghans in Bristol, some in hotel accommodation, are still deserving of our compassion. We must be careful we don’t subconsciously and accidentally endorse a two-tier refugee system in the world. Everyone is deserving of safety. We have raised this in the conversations we’ve been a part of this week, including the World Economic Forum, LGA, Mayors Migration Council and a convening of European Mayors.
Bristolians have already shown support to Ukrainians in many ways. Primary schools have held cake sales, organisations and councillors have set up collection points, and members of the public have supported the Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC) appeal for donations. Supporting funding mechanisms, such as DEC or local funds, are an important way of supporting people in the crisis.
I know that we will continue to step up and help welcome those who need our support at this difficult time. As a City of Hope we’ll do whatever we can.