Some Ukrainian refugees ‘entirely dependent’ on hosts

County Hall, Northallerton.

Some Ukrainian refugees have been placed in such remote rural locations in North Yorkshire that they are “entirely dependent” on host families to do anything.

A meeting of North Yorkshire County Council’s corporate and partnerships scrutiny committee heard while experience had shown refugees often prefer being placed in groups of people from their own communities in urban settings, the isolated locations of some well-meaning sponsors meant Ukrainians had access to little or no services.

The issue was raised after the meeting was told the Home Office was continuing to consider whether to go ahead with controversial plans to launch a centre for up to 1,500 male asylum seekers at Linton on Ouse, a village with few facilities and little public transport.

While a lack of services for the non-detained asylum seekers at the former RAF Linton on Ouse base has been highlighted as a major concern, councillors questioned whether some Ukrainians placed into remote North Yorkshire homes were facing similar issues.

The meeting heard the top priorities for most refugees arriving in the county was getting a job and finding a school for their children, practicalities that were more difficult in rural and remote areas.

Wharfedale councillor Richard Foster, who is also Craven District Council’s leader, said: “We have plenty of people giving up their houses and volunteering, but it isn’t the targeted approach taking people to areas we’re used to, it’s very much scattergun across the county.

“In rural areas people must be able to access bus services and that sort of thing. It’s great that people are willing to do it, but it is going to cause issues.”

The meeting was told the authority had no control over the process, which involved hosts volunteering themselves and basic checks being undertaken by the Home Office.

Councillors heard visas were being issued irrespective of checks, such as housing suitability, that local authorities were undertaking. Host sponsors were regularly contacting the local authority to ask about services once the Ukrainian refugees had arrived, members were told.

Officers told the meeting the voluntary host system was creating challenges, particularly as many of the refugees were “in degrees of trauma” having just left a war-torn country..

One officer stated: “Let’s not underestimate the willingness of sponsors to do that, that’s really great. I’m not entirely convinced that all of them thought through what they were taking on.”

He added while the vast majority of sponsorships were working well, some had broken down for different reasons, including illness.

The officer stated: “There are people placed in remote rural areas and we as a local authority would not have chosen to locate people there because of the lack of public transport.

“There are some, a small number, who are entirely dependent on their sponsor for absolutely everything. We would always try and place people where there is public transport and they can have some access and independence.”