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Cruise ship was considered to house Ukrainians in Wales

27 Sep 2022 4 minute read
Wales and Ukraine flags flying together.

Richard Youle, Local Democracy Reporter

A cruise ship was believed to be one of the options discussed by officials in Wales as a way of accommodating Ukrainians displaced by the Russian invasion.

More than 5,600 Ukrainians have come to Wales since the end of February, with around half those sponsored by the Welsh Government.

These 2,800 or so sponsored arrivals have stayed at “welcome centres” commissioned by the Welsh Government, such as hotels, activity centres and holiday parks. 

The rest have stayed with host families.

Today, September 27, Minister for Social Justice Jane Hutt urged more households to open their doors to fleeing Ukrainians as more could arrive based on numbers of visas issued, and because about a quarter of Welsh hosts said they only planned to have their Ukrainian guests for six months.

Two cruise ships have been chartered in Scotland to offer displaced Ukrainians somewhere to stay, and the Local Democracy Reporting Service has been told a ship was one of many options discussed in Wales.

The Welsh Government said in response: “We discussed a number of options in order to secure safe and suitable accommodation for Ukrainians fleeing the war. The Welsh Government currently has no plans to charter a cruise ship.”

The Scottish Government has about double the number of sponsored Ukrainian arrivals to accommodate than the Welsh Government. Ministers here paused the sponsor route in June.

The Welsh Government offers various support to those it has sponsored, and the hope is that they will be able to find longer-term accommodation. And some of the 2,800 who have been put up in welcome centres have indeed done this – finding private rentals, for example, funded by work or Universal Credit.

A survey by the Office for National Statistics found that around 40% of recently-arrived Ukrainians have found work, that most are registered with a GP surgery, and that many children are enrolled in mainstream education.

If they are at risk of homelessness, councils will step in. But so far the numbers are low.

Carmarthenshire Council said it had 10 Ukrainian households on its housing waiting list, and was currently accommodating 10 Ukrainian households in bed and breakfasts until alternative temporary accommodation could be identified. It has found a further five Ukrainian households longer-term accommodation.

Swansea Council has two Ukrainian households on its housing waiting list. It is putting up one Ukrainian household in temporary accommodation, and has found longer-term accommodation for another one.

£350 per month

Private host families who accommodate Ukrainians receive £350 per month for up to 12 months. The Welsh Government wants the UK Government to increase this to £500 per month, particularly in light of recent energy price hikes.

More than 115,000 people from Ukraine have arrived in the UK since Russian president Vladimir Putin ordered the invasion in February. Just over 5,650 of those are in Wales.

Ms Hutt said the number of arrivals is expected to grow in the coming weeks.

“Thousands of Welsh households sponsored Ukrainians to arrive in Wales and they gave a commitment to host for at least six months,” she said.

“As we move into the autumn, we approach the end of that initial period. We hope hosts and Ukrainians will agree to extend many of those placements, but we need additional hosts to support those who cannot continue living where they are.

“In order to ensure a warm welcome to Wales, I’m issuing an invitation to households across Wales, to come forward an open their homes to welcome those seeking sanctuary.

“We’re immensely thankful to all those across Wales who are acting as hosts, but it’s vital that more households to come forward.”

Prospective hosts can get advice from a service provided by Housing Justice Cymru, a charity.

The Welsh Government has also linked up with the charity arm of accommodation website Airbnb for people who cannot host for more than six months but who could offer their property for up to 30 days at a time for emergency accommodation.

Ms Hutt added: “To all those that are already hosting and to those that are considering hosting, thank you, we owe you all a huge debt of gratitude.”

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