UN tells UK not to match Ukrainian women and children with single men amid fears of exploitation

The UNHCR said it is aware of female refugees feeling at risk from people who have sponsored them to come to the UK

Published

The UN refugee agency has called on the UK Government to ensure that Ukrainian women and children are not matched with single men amid concerns that refugees are at risk and could be exploited.

The UNHCR said it is aware of “increasing reports” of female refugees feeling at risk from people who have sponsored them to come to the UK under the Homes for Ukraine matching scheme.

The agency called for a “more appropriate” process, and said there need to be adequate safeguards and vetting in place to protect vulnerable refugees from exploitation.

A spokesman said: “UNHCR believes that a more appropriate matching process could be put in place by ensuring that women and women with children are matched with families or couples, rather than with single men.

Ukrainian refugees
Ukrainian refugees
Refugees from Ukraine arrive at the central station, in Berlin, Germany
Refugees from Ukraine arrive at the central station, in Berlin, Germany

“Matching done without the appropriate oversight may lead to increasing the risks women may face, in addition to the trauma of displacement, family separation and violence already experienced.”

The Homes for Ukraine sponsorship scheme allows individuals, charities, community groups and businesses to bring people escaping the war to safety – even if they have no ties to the UK.

Anyone with a room or home available for at least six months can offer it to a Ukrainian individual or a family, though those offering to host will be vetted and Ukrainian applicants will undergo security checks.

Last week councils sounded the alarm over a “concerning increase” in Ukrainian refugees arriving in the UK and becoming homeless due to relationship breakdowns with their sponsors and problems accessing accommodation.

Dozens of matches under the Homes for Ukraine scheme are understood to have broken down, with local authorities having to put families in emergency accommodation while they wait to find a new sponsor.

Councils have been calling for a way to get refugees whose matches have not worked out back on the database so they can be matched quickly with sponsors in the local area who have homes ready and waiting.