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UN warns that the UK must help protect vulnerable female refugees from being matched with lone single men under Homes for Ukraine scheme

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Leah Sinclair
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The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has called for “a more appropriate process” when matching sponsors and refugees.

Just a month after the Homes for Ukraine scheme was launched to help support Ukrainians fleeing the war, The UN refugee agency has called on the UK government to stop lone female refugees from being paired with single British men over fears of sexual exploitation.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has called for “a more appropriate process” when matching sponsors and refugees after concerns rose for refugees who could be exploited if matched with predatory men.

In a statement, the agency said: “UNHCR has been made aware of increasing reports of Ukrainian women feeling at risk from their sponsors with regards to the Homes for Ukraine sponsorship scheme.

“UNHCR highlights the need for adequate safeguards and vetting measures to be in place against exploitation, as well as adequate support for sponsors. 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.  

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“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 UK’s Homes for Ukraine scheme opened on 14 March, which allows British people to host Ukrainian refugees, as long as they have a room or home available for at least six months.

Hosts are vetted and Ukrainian refugees undergo security checks.

It follows a report in The Times that a journalist posing as a 22-year-old Ukrainian woman was flooded with inappropriate messages after posting in the largest Facebook group for UK hosts, with one writing: “I have a large bed. We could sleep together.”

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In response to the UNHCR’s request for intervention on the sexual exploitation of Ukrainian women, a government spokesperson said: “Attempts to exploit vulnerable people are truly despicable – this is why we have designed the Homes for Ukraine scheme to have specific safeguards in place, including robust security and background checks on all sponsors by the Home Office and local authorities.

“Councils must make at least one in-person visit to a sponsor’s property and they have a duty to make sure the guest is safe and well once they’ve arrived.”

Click the links to check out the latest updates from the war in Ukraine and learn more about how to help.

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