The People of Ukraine are Welcome in Tower Hamlets

У Тауер Хамлетах вітають народ України

There is nothing positive to come out of the war in Ukraine apart from the bravery of the Ukrainian people and the generosity of those in other European countries who have opened their homes and their hearts to refugees.

The United Nations Operational Data Portal for the Ukraine refugee situation shows that since 24 February 3.2 million people have been forced to flee their homes.

A Ukrainian soldier in combat clothing reaches in a train window to give his daughter a toy.

Poland is full

Two million of these people are now in Poland which is, from all accounts, full to bursting.

Partly this is because Poland borders Ukraine but also because the Poles know the suffering caused by war and took immediate action to help.

In the UK those in power have brought shame on our country by their less than enthusiastic response to the refugee crisis. To date only 6,100 visas have been issued for entry to the UK and it is not known how many Ukrainian refugees are now here.

We can assure the citizens of Ukraine that this reluctance to help those in need in no way reflects the attitude of ordinary citizens.

Ukrainian children and their families waiting to begin the next stage of their journey.

100,000 sign up to Homes for Ukraine

Proof of this is the way British people have stepped up and on the very first day of the Homes for Ukraine scheme over 100,000 people registered.

Those who register for the Homes for Ukraine scheme will be able to nominate an individual or family to stay with them rent-free, or in another property, for at least six months and for up to three years.

While here refugees will be able to work in the UK and access healthcare, welfare and schools. Hosts will receive £350 a month and there will be no limit on the numbers able to come to the UK.

What is slowing things down is that both hosts and refugees will need to be security vetted.

A Ukrainian child refugee makes a heart shape with her fingers through the window of a train taking her to safety.

No oligarchs in our borough thanks

No doubt if every refugee was an oligarch they would now be relaxing in their Mayfair apartments, safe in the knowledge that if you have enough money you are always welcome in London.

You can also find out more about the Ukraine Family Scheme and other routes here ‘Can Ukrainians take refuge in the UK?’

Those of us who are not oligarchs can help in many ways with appeals such as Homes for Ukraine, the Disaster Emergency Committee (DEC) Ukraine Humanitarian Appeal and the Help for Ukrainian nationals from the Red Cross.

DEC Ukraine Appeal

Buy a Freedom Box today

One of the most innovative ways to help comes from Freedom Boxes which is a Czech-based software company.

Freedom Boxes provide a range of immediate practical solutions for you to choose from. At the top end is the Freedom Bus package which, for around € 3,200 buys 50 seats on a bus (the whole bus!) from the Ukraine border to Prague.

Or you can buy a Freedom Bus Ticket for a more affordable € 65, a Children’s Hospital Box with essential bedding for one child for € 45.19, a Kids Box of treats for € 9.25, a Family Box of essential supplies for € 107.11 or a Hero Box for those fighting on the front line for € 154.06.

Freedom Boxes

Good idea, huh? While a whole Freedom Bus might be a bit much for an individual maybe an office or company could get together and buy one? Or neighbours could get together and buy a Family Box?

Doesn’t matter if you buy a Freedom Boxes package or donate to one of the other appeals listed on this page, we all need to do something both as individuals and as a community.

We also need to realise that before Ukraine is once more at peace we may well be called upon to do even more.

What is Tower Hamlets Council doing to help?

You can find out about what Tower Hamlets Council is doing to provideSupport for Refugees here. Seems the Council has established a New Residents and Refugee Forum (NRRF) whatever that is.

Tower Hamlets Council says it will include practical and emotional support needed for those fleeing a war zone, access to relevant healthcare and education, and school places as appropriate.

As with other local authorities it is waiting for further information from the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities on arrangements for refugees.

Two Afghan refugee families housed

The Council has allocated five homes for Afghan refugees in the borough, has housed two families and are awaiting the Home Office to nominate families for the remaining three homes.

A Ukrainian woman carries a child.

What are other UK local authorities doing to help?

Here’s a totally random list of other councils and what they are doing to help the people of Ukraine.

All photos of Ukrainian children fleeing Russian aggression taken by Mirek Pruchnicki (Flickr) in Przemyśl, Poland on 27 February 2022.

Enquirer View

The reaction to most residents on hearing there is a need to house refugees in Tower Hamlets is simple: “Where on earth are we going to put them?”

Due to the crushing incompetence of consecutive councils there are over 20,000 families on the social housing waiting list, so it is a good question.

Desperate times call for radical measures however so here are some of Mole’s suggestions as to where we can find some extra housing for our Ukrainian friends.

Where can we find spare housing capacity in Tower Hamlets?

  1. Check the occupier of every one of the 22,000 properties managed by Tower Hamlets Homes to ensure they actually have the right to be there. Profits from sub-letting council property to offset cost of housing refugees
  2. All other social housing providers in the borough to do the same
  3. Those Tower Hamlets Councillors – almost all Labour – who have several properties in addition to their main home could step up and offer them to refugees
  4. All properties in the borough that are second homes and vacant to be identified and, after due notice to the owners, requisitioned for the refugees.
  5. An immediate increase for all developments, current and future, to have a minimum of 35% social housing. This would be non-negotiable. Developers who don’t like it could then go elsewhere for their profits.
  6. Apsana Begum, MP for Poplar and Limehouse, can put her socialist beliefs into practise by moving out of her council property and renting somewhere privately. Moley thinks she should be able to afford it on her £82,000 salary. She could even get a mortgage!

All the above suggestions would annoy lots of people.

That’s just tough – don’t they know there is a war on?

The obvious question this author will be asked is “So are you taking in refugees to your home?”

If I had a home I would – but I don’t so I can’t.

However I would be more than happy to pitch my tent in Wapping Gardens once more if my current room could be of use? Mole has been consulted and is totally up for it, although this time round he wants a bigger tent.

Moles huh?