Liverpool home to more than 1,500 refugees and stands ready to welcome Ukrainians to city

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The city has shown solidarity with Ukraine as is ready to support people fleeing the Russian invasion of their homeland.

Liverpool is home to more than 1,500 people believed to have fled conflict or faced persecution in other countries, figures show, as the UK prepares to welcome more people fleeing the war in Ukraine.

The Government has launched a new sponsorship scheme, which will let ordinary people, charities and businesses provide a safe space for Ukrainians who do not have family ties in the UK.

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The Homes for Ukraine scheme is set to be rolled out after an announcement by Levelling Up and Housing and Communities Secretary Michael Gove on Monday.

Under the plans, UK citizens putting up Ukrainian refugees will receive a ‘thank you’ payment of £350 per month.

Local authorities will be entitled to financial support of more than £10,000 per Ukrainian refugee, with ‘additional payments’ available to support school-age Ukrainians accommodation in the education system.

Ukraine flag at St George’s Hall Liverpool. Image: @lpoolcouncil/twitterUkraine flag at St George’s Hall Liverpool. Image: @lpoolcouncil/twitter
Ukraine flag at St George’s Hall Liverpool. Image: @lpoolcouncil/twitter | Getty Images

Earlier this month, on March 3, Liverpool councillors unanimously passed a cross-party motion that announced Liverpool stood ready to offer its support and sanctuary to those fleeing war in Ukraine and called on the Government to do more to help.

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There were emotional scenes at the Town Hall when the motion - put forward by leaders of the city’s Labour, Liberal Democrat, Green and Liberal groups - went through.

Revd Dr Taras Khomych, a Ukrainian priest and university lecturer in Liverpool, addressed councillors saying “no words can express the emotions we feel at what has been going on in our country” in a war on “human values, on democracy and decency.”

Rev Khomych, whose remarks received a standing ovation, said he had been moved by the support and prayers from the people of Liverpool.

There are around 140 Ukrainians currently living in Liverpool, according to figures from the 2021 census.

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Refugees numbers in Liverpool

Home Office data shows Liverpool communities have already welcomed 161 refugees as part of other resettlement schemes since 2014, including 15 who arrived last year.

The figures show 139 were accommodated via the Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Scheme (VPRS), which was established in 2014 to provide sanctuary to Syrian refugees.

The Vulnerable Children's Resettlement Scheme – an effort to resettle 3,000 at-risk child refugees in the UK – saw 11 youngsters placed in the area.

After resettling more than 20,000 refugees in local authority areas across the country, the VPRS was replaced in February 2021 by the UK Resettlement Scheme, which has so far provided 11 people with a home in Liverpool.

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Liverpool was home to at least 1,678 asylum seekers – people seeking sanctuary while applying for the right to be recognised as a refugee – in December 2021.

Government plans and cuts to resettlement schemes

A Home Office spokeswoman said the Government had a "proud history" of supporting people in need and protecting the most vulnerable.

However, the chief executive of charity Refugee Action has urged MPs to back a Lords amendment to the Government's proposed Nationality and Borders Bill to support more refugees and create a commitment to resettle 10,000 every year.

Tim Naor Hilton said cuts to resettlement schemes had left local authorities struggling to invest in refugee services and said the amendment could improve the country's response to those escaping conflict.

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Asylum applications and financial assistance

Separate figures show asylum applications in the UK increased by 63% to 48,540 in 2021 – the highest number in almost two decades.

While awaiting a decision, asylum seekers are unable to work but can be entitled to financial assistance and accommodation through what is known as Section 95 support.

Around 54,700 asylum seekers across the UK were receiving Section 95 support at the end of last year, including 1,526 in Liverpool.

Figures for both refugees and asylum seekers could be higher as not all existing resettlement schemes and forms of support are represented in the data.

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Enver Solomon, CEO of the Refugee Council said the increase was unsurprising, because "where there is war, conflict and violence, there will be people desperately seeking safety."

He called on the Government to tackle a rise in people waiting over six months for a Home Office decision, adding: “The UK’s response must be an asylum system that is fair, humane and orderly – a system that processes claims in an efficient and timely manner, granting protection to those who need it and for those who don’t, enabling them to return safely and with dignity to the country from which they came."

Placement in Local Authorities

The data shows disparities around the placement of people within local authority areas, with asylum seekers representing fewer than one in every 100,000 people in some areas, compared to 705 in every 100,000 in Glasgow, according to the latest population estimates.

In Liverpool there was the equivalent of 335 asylum seekers for every 100,000 residents in December.

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The Government spokeswoman said it is working with councils to ensure asylum seekers are distributed fairly around the UK, adding: “Our new plan for immigration will fix the broken asylum system, making it fair to those who need our help and firm on those who abuse our hospitality.”

The figures do not include those resettled via the recently established Afghan Citizens’ Resettlement Scheme.