Ukrainian refugee left homeless after UK host demanded bill money
The refugee said she was so upset, she thought it would've been better to stay in Ukraine
A refugee from Ukraine has been left homeless after her UK host demanded money to pay for utility bills.
Olha, 36, who asked for her real name not to be used, moved in with a British woman in her 60s living in Brighton after she had agreed to welcome Ukrainian refugees into her home. The pair matched through a Facebook group and then registered through the government's Homes for Ukraine scheme, The Guardian reports.
At first, Olha thoughts things would go well. She was given an evening meal when she arrived but was told she would be expected to provide her own food after that.
Then, within days of moving in, the host began demanding money from Olha.
Olha told The Guardian: “She contacted the utility companies, asked them how much she had spent that week and told me that since I had arrived her energy bills had gone up a lot and that I needed to pay her £50 per week for energy bills. She said if I didn’t want to pay her I had to leave.
“I felt so upset I thought it would have been better for me to stay at home in Ukraine so that I wouldn’t experience anything like this.”
Olha was unable to pay her host the money and therefore had to leave. Luckily, she managed to find someone from a local church who offered to let her stay for a few days.
She added: “I’m in a very difficult situation because my family are still in Ukraine. My brother is a soldier and my mother has refused to leave the country. I’ve received contradictory information about what I should do next. I don’t want to scare other Ukrainians who are coming here but what happened to me is dreadful. It has caused me so much stress and made me feel totally unsafe. My host told me I needed to go. But where should I go? I have only just arrived in the UK.”
A source from the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, which launched the hosting scheme, said it was not acceptable for hosts to demand money from their guests who are refugees, especially as they have been offered £350 a month from the government as a "thank you" for hosting Ukrainian refugees.
Advice on the government website said sponsors should tell their local council if a hosting arrangement breaks down.
Hannah Clare, the deputy leader of Brighton and Hove city council, confirmed the council was aware of the case. She told The Guardian the government's scheme has been "badly put together", adding: "Among its flaws is the fact that there is no mechanism for councils to transfer a Ukrainian guest to an alternative sponsor when something like this happens."
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