18 March 2022

Thinking about housing Ukrainian refugees

I had been feeling powerless when the war in Ukraine broke out. But then Ukrainians started to flee the country in droves. I can understand why, as I suppose everyone can. But fleeing your country must be a terrible thing to do. Once you have managed to get out of the country, you hope the worst is over. And it looks like for many, it is. Poland seemed to be doing an amazing job opening its arms to countless many refugees. I was embarrassed about the UK not following suit. The Ukraine can't currently look after its own citizens, so someone else will have to do it. Everyone in that position would hope for a helping hand, and I sure would, so then there need to be people extending it. And the UK initially only let people into the country with family here, reluctantly handing out only hundreds of visas, but even the Tories realised in the end they couldn't keep that up. They had to widen the criteria for people to come here. And while Westminster was considering this, I was thinking about whether I should offer my spare room. It is only a spare room! I suppose every refugee would prefer independent housing. But my spare is still better than nothing, and also better than a field bed in a sports hall.

Then the UK decided anyone could "sponsor" a refugee. Or several. And even offered financial compensation. And even though it is of course good idea to help people help people, I couldn't escape the impression that the British government had purposefully kept Ukrainians out in order to create outrage, so that they then immediately afterwards could palm off the accommodation of refugees to private citizens. It's convenient for them if they don't have to organise reception centres and suchlike! It's a bit like David Cameron's "big society" which sounded like a nice name for his government trying to make private citizens do what the government should be doing. But even if it was an evil Tory plot, I still figured it would be the right thing to do. If I would ever be bombed out of my country I would want someone to give me a home! So then I should do the same for someone else who actually is.

And in the meantime I had also been discussing the matter with my friend Charlotte, who pointed me in the direction of a local organisation that supports refugees. Maybe they could help with the process. I gave my name to a local organiser but nothing happened. I then registered on the government website. You need to offer accommodation to one or more named person(s), and I don't have a named person, so I will need to get in touch with the municipality or the county. I am sure they are on this. The local organisation Charlotte suggested seemed more busy with sending goods to Ukraine, rather than being involved in finding people a temporary home.

I suppose this process has only started! I'm not even sure this will lead to something. Both me and my accommodation will have to be vetted. But I think it will be okay. I find myself rather harmless, and my spare room is better than a smoking ruin. Watch this space! Enormously big changes might be afoot…

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