Charities warned the scheme, hastily set up amid claims the UK was not doing enough to help Ukrainian refugees, was ripe for abuse. Single men could easily contact vulnerable young women fleeing war, ostensibly offering them a safe place to live.
Last week evidence emerged some men with criminal backgrounds were offering to host women under the scheme, which does not require hosts to be pre-vetted.
Meanwhile, Scotland on Sunday revealed a month ago that relationships between hosts and refugees were already beginning to break down, leaving some Ukrainians homeless in Scotland.
In Scotland (and Wales), the super sponsor scheme allows refugees to travel here and be looked after by local councils until a permanent, safe – and vetted – home can be found. Last week refugees minister Neil Gray said there was “no need” for refugees who wanted to come to Scotland to be searching for hosts privately, through social media. However, the statistics show that many have done so.
Of the 6,400 visas issued to refugees to live in Scotland, according to Home Office figures published on Friday, just 3,920 were sponsored by the Scottish Government.
This is leaving thousands potentially vulnerable.
On social media groups, every post from a young Ukrainian woman looking for shelter is quickly responded to by men offering a space in their homes.
It is easy to spot the suspect ones. They paste the same message on different women’s posts, usually without explanation of their situation. These men never seem to offer help in response to posts from families or older women. Some, of course, may be innocent and merely struggling to find anyone to host due to fears over women’s safety in an all-male household. It is just difficult to be sure.
One problem is that in Ukraine, the UK is generally known as “England” and trying to explain to people as they flee their homeland there are actually four countries within Great Britain, and that they have differing options for refugees, is not straightforward.
Promoting the super sponsor scheme is the most sensible option at this stage. We cannot let more women fleeing one terrible situation end up in an equally terrible one here.