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Ukrainians fleeing the war are staying with British hosts who have not undergone criminal record checks, in the last attempt to spoil the government’s response to the refugee crisis.

Under increasing pressure to iron out flaws in his plans, government sources told the Observer they were creating a “rematch” service to house Ukrainians with people willing to help.

Tens of thousands of people who have expressed an interest in the UK’s Homes for Ukraine scheme will be contacted to say the government is working with councils and charities to put them in touch with Ukrainians who have arrived in the UK but find themselves homeless after falling from their original place. through or family members could not accommodate them.

So far, more than 102,000 visas have been issued under the two government refugee programs for Ukrainians, and 46,100 have arrived in the UK. Youth issues continue to beset the initiatives. In many cases, people have been hosted for weeks by hosts who are still awaiting their Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) checks.

Karen Liebreich, from west London, picked up her 21-year-old Ukrainian refugee from the airport five weeks ago but said she was still awaiting the results of checks.

She said: ‘My husband and I have now completed our forms for the DBS checks, but she has been here for five weeks and we still haven’t been approved.

The Department of Leveling, Housing and Communities – which is responsible for the program – contacted her last week to ask if they could use it as a case study, but Liebreich refused.

In an email to the department, she said: “[Your] The department was all over the press assuring us that anyone hosting a Ukrainian had passed a DBS check. As this is a categorical lie…I am not prepared to facilitate an interview to reinforce a message from the government for ministers who seem not to understand the value of truth.

Ukrainian refugees staying with UK hosts are not verified by criminal record checks |  Immigration and asylum
Ukrainian refugees at the Isaccea border crossing last month. Photography: Christophe Archambault/AFP/Getty Images

A DBS check allows employers and other organizations to view the criminal record of a person applying for a job, if they have one.

Another host of a Ukrainian mother and son in Essex on Thursday also said they had arrived but she was ‘not checked’ and asked the council for an explanation.

Another Essex host wrote on Facebook: ‘Our guests, including a young child, arrived on April 14th and we only received the links for the enhanced DBS verification last Friday. [6 May].”

Essex County Council said the delays came about due to the ‘volume’ of cases, but it was ‘giving priority to those who already had guests with them’, and last week began checks Face-to-face DBS in two offices to “speed things up further”.

Responding to these issues and concerns about homelessness, a parliamentary committee will this week urge the government to fix its “wholly dysfunctional” programs.

Clive Betts, chairman of the upgrading committee, said he had written to refugee minister Richard Harrington, about fears for the safety of Ukrainians and their potential to end up homeless.

Maggie Filipova-Rivers, from the City of Sanctuary network of 120 local councils, said the delay between Ukrainians housing and DBS checks being carried out on their host was worrying. She pointed to a recent case where a family in Worcester were at risk of becoming homeless after problems with their host.

“Someone was hosting a family living on a mattress in the kitchen and asking them for money; it was a case of potential exploitation,” Filipova-Rivers said.

Worcester City Council said that while no safety issues were identified in the case, they deemed the property “unsuitable”. But the host had ignored this and continued with the placement.

Then the council had become aware of ‘problems in the relationship between the godfather and his guests’ – the Ukrainian family had appealed for help on Facebook, which led to a support group offering alternative accommodation in Derby then to Sheffield.

Misha Lagodinsky, who runs a matchmaking program called UK Welcomes Ukraine, which has 100 Ukrainian and Russian-speaking volunteers connecting people, said: “Some people find out they are immediately homeless because they got a visa and then their host DBS check fails.

Charlie Richards, a volunteer with another program, said he had heard of Ukrainian families sleeping on benches after becoming homeless.

Concerns have grown over the government’s failure to release data it has on the number of Ukrainians reporting to councils as homeless. A source said they were due to release the data shortly and that the numbers for the Homes for Ukraine program were “very low so far”.

They added that the intention was never to carry out DBS checks on all hosts before the Ukrainians arrived, as the priority was to get people “out of harm’s way” first.

A government spokesperson said: “The Homes for Ukraine program has strict safeguards in place and the Home Office carries out security and background checks of all sponsors before visas are issued. Councils also perform audits and must make at least one in-person visit to a sponsor’s property.

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