Refugees sit inside a train to Berlin at the main train station in Krakow, Poland, March 15, 2022. Image Credit: REUTERS

London: Almost 90,000 Brits have signed up to host Ukrainian refugees in their homes, less than a day after the British government launched a new initiative for Britons to sponsor Ukrainian refugees.

The “Homes for Ukraine,” as the new programme is known, launched on Monday afternoon, and within six hours, 44,000 Brits had signed up before the government website crashed.

A spokesman for Britain’s housing department said that, as of Tuesday morning, that figure had doubled to over 88,000.

Unlike other European countries, Britain has not waived visa restrictions for Ukrainians fleeing the conflict. Until this week, only those with family ties to the Britain could apply for a visa, a process itself that’s been plagued by delays and red tape. Applicants have reported technical struggles with the online applications and that some advice hotlines are reportedly charging nearly a dollar a minute.

On Monday, the British government launched a new refugee pathway for those who have no family ties to the country. The first sponsored Ukrainian refugees are expected to arrive next week.


The rush to take in Ukrainian refugees comes amid fierce criticism from opposition lawmakers and charities - and three quarters of the public - who say that Britain isn’t doing enough on this front. As of Monday, only 4,000 visas have been processed. Poland, meanwhile, has accepted more than 1.6 million refugees.

The new programme will see the British government pay volunteers about $450 per month to house a refugee. Hosts, who must be vetted, are required to offer accommodation for at least six months. Ukrainians who arrive in the country this way will be granted a three-year visa, allowing them to work and access benefits and public services.

Participating hosts are not matched with a refugee - they must nominate a Ukrainian family by name, prompting critics to say that this is an unnecessary roadblock.

“It cannot be right that people who are fleeing Russian aggression have to advertise themselves on social media in the hope that a British family will notice,” said Lisa Nandy, the opposition Labour Party’s point person for housing.

James Cleverly, a foreign office minister, defended the approach, telling the BBC that it was more efficient. “There are a huge number of people and organizations that have already got connections with Ukrainians. Rather than replicate, duplicate and slow that down, we want to be as agile and as quick as possible.”

In a separate interview, he added that he was “actually quite proud” that the government website crashed on the day it was launched. “I know this is a weird thing to say as a government minister,” he told LBC Radio, but “I’m glad the website crashed because it is a reflection of that generosity of the British people.”