This is how many Ukrainian refugees have found homes in Blackpool, Fylde and Wyre

More Ukrainian refugees have so far been promised a place to stay in Fylde than almost any other part of Lancashire.

Sunday, 15th May 2022, 2:03 pm

According to figures obtained by The Gazette, 123 refugees have been offered accommodation in the district under the Homes For Ukraine scheme by the 47 residents who have been confirmed as sponsors.As of last week, 37 had actually arrived.

That puts Fylde just behind Lancaster, where 72 confirmed sponsors are set to open their doors to 134 people who have fled in the wake of the Russian invasion.

At this stage of the scheme in Lancashire, Fylde will welcome the most under-18s – a total of 58, almost half of the total number of refugees coming to the district.

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Residents in the Fylde, Blackpool and Wyre council areas have pledged to welcome almost 250 Ukrainian regfugees between them

In Blackpool, 39 Ukrainians have arrived in the resort to date, with 70 exepected overall, having been offered space in the homes of 31 sponsors.

Meanwhile, in Wyre, 50 refugees are set to find safety in the borough after 30 residents were confirmed as sponsors. Twenty of those in need have already arrived in the district.

Across the Lancashire County Council area, 423 sponsors have been confirmed and matched up with just over 800 refugees - 280 of whom are already here.

Under the Homes for Ukraine initiave, prospective sponsors have to identify a refugee before applying to bring them to the UK. There are various charities and informal social media groups which are attempting to match refugees with sponsors.

Magdalena Matuszewska, a membert of the Polish community in Preston, recently made an aid trip to the border between her birth country and its stoic but savaged neighbour - and said that many of those she met who had fled the Russian invasion would like to seek sanctuary in the UK until it is safe for them to return.

She has created a Facebook group - UK Supporting Ukrainian Refugees - designed to facilitate initial contact between Ukrainians in need and Britons with space in their homes, in order to give both parties the chance to chat before making a firm commitment.

“If they want to see and speak to each other [online], I can help - and then they can see if they are okay with each other on both sides,” Magdalena explained.

She also said that the personal stories she encountered at the border left an impression on her and her partner and 15-year-old son, who all made the trip together.

“We [ended up] on a train with a woman of about 35, who had her 18-month old daughter with her and her son, who was 14. She had just one suitcase of luggage and was very tired and had been travelling for hours.

“It touched us, because we remember what our grandparents suffered in the Second World War. How the Russians are treating people in Ukraine [today] is similar to what they did [to] the Polish back then.”

Meanwhile, a former Lancashire MP has warned that the Homes for Ukraine scheme – while laudible – is not “a long-term solution”.

David Borrow, who represented South Ribble between 1997 and 2010, says that the UK should consider how it could replicate the support it provided for Kosovan refugees who were welcomed into the country in the late 1990s during the war in their homeland.

Back then, the Labour politician said, those who had arrived here in search of safety were put up in properties which were given over for that purpose.

“The concern I have got about what we have put in place [for] Ukrainian refugees [is that] it all seems to be about welcoming people into our homes [and] looking after them within our families.

“I can't see how that is a solution for more than a few months. I think there are real risks around people staying with strangers, however good natured …for more than a very short time.

“And I'm not sure that we - either in Westminster or local government - have yet come to recognise the scale of what we are going to need to do to provide refuge for large numbers of people fleeing Ukraine until they are able to go back again.

“I pray that they will be able to go back again in less than two years - but it could be a lot longer,” Cllr Borrow told a meeting of Preston City Council, where he is now a cabinet member.

Earlier this month, it emerged that the government had had to find alternative accommodation for around 600 Ukrainian refugees at short notice after their hosts were deemed unsuitable.

The Observer reported that some of the sponsors who had put themselves forward had a criminal record. The government told the paper that no visas are issued until the Home Office has completed background checks on every adult in a sponsor household.

All households will be visited by a council representative to ensure the accommodation is fit for purpose, while local authorities will also facilitate basic Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) checks – or enhanced checks if under-18s are going to be staying in a sponsor household. Unaccompanied under-18s cannot be housed by sponsors who are unrelated to them.

The Lancashire Refugee Integration Team is also in regular contact with Lancashire Police and the pan-Lancashire Anti-Slavery Partnerships, to ensure safeguarding is maintained.

Seconded staff from the county council's family wellbeing service are providing initial welfare checks to every family arriving from Ukraine, while commissioned casework staff are providing welfare checks for single adults.

Sponsors and their guests are provided with Lancashire-specific handbooks and the county council's integration team is hosting webinars about how to deal with trauma, registering for benefits and getting English language assistance.

County Hall is also working with district authorities and community groups to provide integration activities for Ukrainians who have travelled to Lancashire.

LANCASHIRE SPONSORSHIP STATISTICS

As of 11th May, this is how many sponsors have been matched with a refugee in each Lancashire council area, how many refugees they can accommodate in total and how many Ukrainian people have so far arrived:

Blackburn with Darwen - 47 sponsors, 102 refugees - 18 arrived

Blackpool - 31 sponsors, 70 refugees - 39 arrived

Burnley - 22 sponsors, 43 refugees (19 under-18s) - 5 arrived

Chorley - 36 sponsors, 51 refugees (13 under-18s) - 37 arrived

Fylde - 47 sponsors, 123 refugees (58 under-18s) - 37 arrived

Hyndburn - 18 sponsors, 30 refugees (7 under-18s) - 5 arrived

Lancaster - 72 sponsors, 134 refugees (48 under-18s) - 62 arrived

Pendle - 24 sponsors, 51 refugees (15 under-18s) - 13 arrived

Preston - 43 sponsors, 81 refugees (17 under-18s) - 33 arrived

Ribble Valley - 34 sponsors, 65 refugees (27 under-18s) - 19 arrived

Rossendale - 24 sponsors, 39 refugees (11 under-18s) - 6 arrived

South Ribble - 35 sponsors, 51 refugees (15 under-18s) - 16 arrived

West Lancashire - 38 sponsors, 86 refugees (32 under-18s) - 27 arrived

Wyre - 30 sponsors, 50 refugees (18 under-18s) - 20 arrived

Sources: Lancashire County Council, Blackpool Council, Blackburn with Darwen Council

WANT TO HELP?

Lancashire County Council has an online advice page for people interested in finding out more about the Homes For Ukraine scheme.

The following organisations can also help: