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UK ‘Looking At’ Housing Ukrainian Refugees In Seized Oligarch Homes

Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaks from 10 Downing Street, in London, on February 24, 2022 during an address to the nation on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Boris Johnson, who summoned his security chiefs for an early morning meeting in response to Russia’s “unprovoked” and “horrific” attack, will also address parliament in the afternoon. Jeff J Mitchell / POOL / AFP

 

The UK government on Monday said it was considering housing Ukrainian refugees in property owned by sanctioned Russian oligarchs, as it prepared to announce a programme for people to open their homes to those fleeing the war.

When asked if he supported calls for oligarchs’ houses to be seized for refugees, Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s spokesman said it was “something we’re looking at”.

Health minister Sajid Javid earlier cautioned that the mansions should not be the “first place” considered to house refugees, warning of “legal hurdles” to clear first.

Protesters on Monday took matters into their own hands, breaking into and occupying a luxury property beneficially owned by oligarch Oleg Deripaska.

“We are a property liberation front,” one of the activists told AFP. “I think a war refugee deserves it, it would at least raise his mood a little bit.”

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Deripaska was last week hit with an assets freeze and travel ban alongside six other Russian billionaires, including his former business associate Roman Abramovich.

The UK has faced criticism over its policy towards those fleeing the violence, with places limited at the moment to those who already have family in the country.

But the government’s “Homes for Ukraine” programme could see “tens of thousands” of Ukrainians without family ties be allowed to stay in the UK.

Hosts will be given £350 ($457, 418 euros) a month and have to commit to housing refugees for a minimum of six months, senior minister Michael Gove said on Sunday.

But additional overheads could prove problematic: Britons are grappling with the worst cost-of-living crisis in a generation, as energy bills and inflation soar.

– Cancer flights –

Johnson’s Downing Street office said Monday that the prime minister himself will not be taking any Ukrainian refugees.

“There are specific challenges around security on housing people in No 10,” his spokesman said.

More than 20 Ukrainian children with cancer have meanwhile been airlifted to the UK, the government said on Monday.

Health minister Javid said the 21 children had been receiving treatment in Ukraine but were forced to leave their homes because of Russia’s invasion.

They are now being given “life-saving” care by the state-run National Health Service (NHS) and have been accompanied by their carers, he told Sky News television.

The government in London has been criticised for insisting that those fleeing the conflict and wanting to join family in the UK have to apply for visas to be able to travel.

Its insistence on security checks and visas has earned it unfavourable comparisons with the European Union, which has allowed Ukrainians visa-free stays for up to three years.

As of Saturday, “just over 3,000” visas had been granted under a UK scheme for family members, Javid told Times Radio.

Javid said the sick children, who arrived in the UK from Poland on Sunday evening, were initially given six-month visas but will be allowed to stay “as long as necessary”.

They were brought to the UK with the help of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, a US organisation which specialises in the most serious paediatric illnesses.

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Written by PH

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