The UNHCR – the UN’s Refugee Agency – estimates more than 2.5m people have fled Ukraine since Russia invaded this sovereign European country almost three weeks ago.
People – mainly women, older and vulnerable people and children – are leaving their homes to try and find safety from the relentless shelling and the Russian government’s attacks either elsewhere in their country or beyond Ukraine’s borders. Many have found sanctuary in our European neighbours.
We welcome the steps the UK Government has taken over recent days to make it easier for those fleeing the violence in Ukraine to apply for visas or sponsorship to come to the UK.
Over the weekend, the First Minister of Scotland and I wrote to the Rt Hon Michael Gove MP, Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Communities and Housing, confirming our governments’ support for the UK Government’s Homes for Ukraine scheme.
We have proposed Wales and Scotland will act as respective “super sponsors” under the new scheme.
Wales has committed to supporting an initial 1,000 people in the first phase of the scheme – this figure is based on our experience of the successful Afghan and Syrian resettlement schemes. But we are committed to building on this and to taking our fair and proportionate share of the Ukrainian refugees who come to the UK.
We will work closely with the UK Government as the details of this scheme develop and are finalised to ensure we are ready to receive refugees from this weekend when the first visas and matches under the new scheme are issued.
In the meantime, we are working closely with Wales’ 22 local authorities, the Welsh Local Government Association, the WCVA, the Wales Strategic Migration Partnership and wider partners to make preparations to welcome refugees to Wales.
I am very grateful for the close working relationship we have with local authorities and the third sector in Wales.
We want to ensure the right support is available to all those coming to Wales from Ukraine – whether via the new Homes for Ukraine scheme or via the family visa route – especially for those people who may be experiencing trauma from the impact of the conflict in their home country.
Much work has already been done and we are building on our collective experience as a Nation of Sanctuary.
We stand in solidarity with Ukraine and there will be a warm welcome to all those who come to Wales.
Further updates will be provided to Members of the Senedd as our plans are confirmed.