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Many Ukrainian refugees in Wales ‘on the point of homelessness’

25 Feb 2024 4 minute read
Photo Michele Ursi

Luke James

Many Ukrainian refugees in Wales face being made homeless as support is phased out amid a growing housing crisis, charities have told Nation.Cymru.

Over 7,000 Ukrainians have arrived in Wales since Russia launched its invasion two years ago.

As the conflict enters its third year, many of the 4,000 Ukrainians who were hosted in people’s homes are seeking their own accommodation.

The Welsh Government is also phasing out its own scheme which saw another 3,000 accommodated in hotels, holiday parks and university halls across the country.

Stressed

“Welcome centres are closing down,” said Helen McAdie of the Ukraine solidarity hub in Cardiff’s Capitol Centre. “It’s a huge problem because social housing is very difficult to get.

“So we are seeing a lot of people who are very stressed on the point of homelessness.

“Landlords don’t like people if they are on universal credit and don’t have a guarantor.

“Their only other option was to move to north Wales. It’s really difficult for people who have been here for two years and set up links in Cardiff.”

Welcome centres were only meant to provide temporary accommodation but the housing crisis meant that some refugees are still living there 18 months after arriving.

The last two centres in the south have been closed, meaning those who can’t find accommodation need to move to the last two centres in the north.

But they are also due to close later this year, leaving some refugees at risk of homelessness if they don’t accept alternative accommodation.

Trauma

“There are people who have suffered significant trauma and have not really been able to adapt,” said Nicholas Wysoczanskyj, the Ukraine manager at the Wales Refugee Council.

“Getting them to take accommodation somewhere where they have no connection would mean another disruption to their lives and often outside of an area that they’ve developed an attachment to.

“But if they continue to refuse offers, they will eventually find that the initial accommodation facilities that they’re in will close. That leaves really only one safety net which is the homelessness system.”

Among those to have faced homelessness are Yevheniia Rizina and her mother, Svitlana, who arrived in Wales in May 2022 after escaping Kryvyi Rih, a city in the south east of Ukraine which has been subject to deadly missile attacks.

“We were greeted wonderfully and helped to adapt here,” said Yevheniia, who initially lived with a host family in Cardiff.

Life in Wales became more complicated when they began looking for a place of their own.

“We lived for six months in a hotel, having homeless status,” she added. “Unfortunately, Wales has an extreme housing shortage and it is very difficult to find accommodation.

“Not knowing the laws, the difference in mentality and ignorance of English at the level of a native speaker often plays a cruel joke on us and gives rise to misunderstandings. Very often we don’t know who to turn to for advice.”

Yevheniia and Svitlana eventually found a “wonderful apartment in a cozy area” with the help of their Welsh friends.

While the majority of refugees initially housed by the Government have found private accommodation, many of those who came to stay with individual sponsors are still living with their hosts.

Hosted relationships 

“A lot of the Ukrainians are reliant on hosted relationships because of affordability issues,” said Wysoczanskyj. “A single person might not even be able to afford a room. A hosted relationship is the only solution available to them but hosts are very thin on the ground.”

Some Ukrainians were able to save money while staying with host families, allowing them to offer a large bond, or even rent for the entire duration of a contract, to reluctant private sector landlords.

But there is concern that the one off nature of that support means many Ukrainians face being made homeless when their contracts come up for renewal.

The short-term visas being offered to Ukrainians – the UK Government announced an 18-month extension earlier this week – is also contributing to insecurity, the Refugee Council believes.

“Ultimately, it’s that insecurity that’s stopping people from saying ‘actually I will do that three year university course, I will commit to staying here’,” said Wysoczanskyj.

“And that means people still end up in low paid jobs and at some point they’re going to find themselves very stretched financially when it comes to renewing rentals in the future.

“We’ve done a lot to get people into the private rented sector and that’s been fantastic but my fear is that we may have set a large number of people up for a fall just six months or a year down the line depending on their rental contract.”


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Leigh Richards
Leigh Richards
4 months ago

A shameful way to treat people who have had to flee their homeland due to the murderous invasion of Ukraine by the tyrant Putin. Surely we can do better than this in Wales – thought we were supposed to be a ‘Nation of Sanctuary’?

Riki
Riki
4 months ago
Reply to  Leigh Richards

And the 20+ thousand ethnic Russians from 2013-21? Do they not matter?

Leigh Richards
Leigh Richards
4 months ago
Reply to  Riki

No surprise to see Putin’s troll farm paying a visit 😉 (and peddling the murdering tyrant’s lies 😡) https://www.rollingstone.com/politics/politics-features/russia-troll-farms-failing-meta-facebook-1234968169/

Johnny Gamble
Johnny Gamble
4 months ago
Reply to  Leigh Richards

How ironic that anyone with a different opinion to that reported by Western MSM is a Putin bot.
The truth has been hidden about the Ukrainian Fascist Azov battalion and how Stepan Bandera a WWII Nazi collaborator is hero worshipped by the Zelensky regime.

Jeff
Jeff
4 months ago
Reply to  Johnny Gamble

St Petersburg nice this time of the year?

Rob
Rob
4 months ago
Reply to  Johnny Gamble

Ukraine is not the only country with fascist militias, look at Russia. Look at the way their government dealt with Chechnya, or murder anyone who challenges the Kremlin’s authority (ie Navalny). Furthermore there are plenty of Russians with nostalgia for the Soviet Union, who hero worship Stalin, a genocidal psychopath who murdered more people than Hitler, I’m not saying that all Ukrainians are innocent, however Russia needs to look at itself in the mirror before giving itself the moral right to “de-nazify” a sovereign state. Why did Ukrainian nationalists collaborate with the Nazis during the war? Could it be because… Read more »

Last edited 4 months ago by Rob
Padi Phillips
Padi Phillips
4 months ago
Reply to  Rob

It also has to be borne in mind that there are no nazis in Ukraine’s government, which is more than can be said for the UK’s Westminster government.

People also often forget that Zelenskiy is a Jew, and so very unlikely to be at all supportive to nazis. In it’s early days the Azov battalion did have some associations with the far right, but nowadays is far more mixed.

Those constantly peddling the lie that Ukraine is run by a bunch of nazis need to stop watching Russia Today. It rots the brain!

Linda Jones
Linda Jones
4 months ago

Our infrastructure is collapsing, from the NHS to the justice system to housing etc etc etc isn’t working and unfortunately migrants are caught up in the same shortages as the rest of us. Tory cuts and the Senedd implementation has left Cardiff with extortionate rents and an 11 year waiting list for social housing. Its a disaster. We need to move towards a kinder politics/economics that works for all not just the rich and the corporations. So much of our money is held offshore (£38 billions a year?) and not in the UK or Wales to support our infrastructure. This… Read more »

hdavies15
hdavies15
4 months ago
Reply to  Linda Jones

Very true. A devalued currency being hoarded by the few. Not much left for the rest of us.

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