In a media briefing yesterday updates were given on the Homes for Ukraine scheme where people in NI can offer to take in refugees.
So far 40 visas have been issued by the Home Office to Ukrainians who are able to stay in properties here with another 300 people having been matched to accommodation and awaiting visas. It is understood around 7,200 people in NI have expressed an interest in housing Ukrainians fleeing the war.
Many have also come to the Province through the Ukrainian Family Scheme, having relatives already settled here.
An Executive official said: “From our contacts within the Ukrainian community here already they are telling us they think that there are already several hundred (close to 300) who have come through that UK scheme.
“The government was prioritising the family scheme over homes scheme because the family members were anxious to get their family members across here.”
The official added: “We expect these numbers to grow quite quickly now, especially the Homes for Ukraine scheme.
“At this point, while these schemes have been running for over two weeks, the number of Ukrainians that we have seen come to Northern Ireland within those two weeks is at least as high as the number of Syrians who came in a typical year under the scheme we ran previously, so we are dealing with a much larger people coming in a much shorter space of time than any previous refugee resettlement.”
He said: “It’s been a huge effort with people working around the clock to design and implement the system that’s going to support refugees in the best way possible, to make sure they’re safe, and that there’s arrangements to support them right away through the process.
“This is unlike previous refugee resettlement exercises in the sense that Ukrainians could arrive through a number of different routes, including across the border from the Republic. Whereas in previous schemes they were much more controlled in the sense that we knew when people were going to arrive and the numbers that were coming in.”
A number of community assistance hubs and drop-in centres will open in Belfast, Craigavon, Newry and Ballymena in the next week, officials added.
These centres will help people with information on health issues, benefits, completing applications, getting work, and immigration issues.
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