Ukraine Refugees to Be Taken In by British Citizens as Part of New Program

British officials will soon announce a program allowing Ukrainian refugees to come into the United Kingdom.

A hotline and website will be set up where people and organizations like charities and businesses can provide accommodations, such as rooms in homes, for those fleeing the Russian invasion, British newspaper Metro reported.

The move comes as the attack on Ukraine enters its third week. Since it began, millions have fled the country to other parts of Europe. The U.K. is one of several countries, such as Poland, Ireland and the Czech Republic, that have implemented measures making it easier to welcome more refugees.

More than 2.5 million people have fled Ukraine so far, with the United Nations high commissioner for refugees (UNHCR) estimating that number could exceed 4 million if the invasion continues.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson told Sky News that Michael Gove, secretary of state for levelling up, housing and communities, will reveal the refugee plan's details on Monday. The U.K.'s Levelling Up program is aimed at addressing the country's "moral, social and economic" imbalances.

Under the new refugee program, those offering accommodations for Ukrainians will have to be vetted and agree to provide space for them for a certain period, The Guardian reported. After the Ukrainians are matched to an accommodation offer, they will be able to stay for one year, during which they will be able to work, receive benefits and use public services, Metro said.

In 2021, the U.K. received the highest number of asylum applications in almost 20 years, although asylum applications in the European Union fell by 4 percent that year, according to Filippo Grandi, the UNHCR. As of the middle of last year, more than 135,000 refugees were in the U.K., with over 83,000 pending asylum cases. It is not yet clear how many Ukrainians would be expected to enter the U.K. as part of the new program.

The program comes shortly after Priti Patel, home secretary for the U.K., announced the country would ease some of its entry requirements to allow more Ukrainians to enter, according to The Guardian. This measure allows Ukrainians with passports to apply for visas online instead of having to go to a U.K. consular office.

"This will mean that visa application centers across Europe can focus their efforts on helping Ukrainians without passports," Patel said.

The vast majority of refugees from Ukraine have fled to Poland, and other popular destinations are Slovakia and Hungary, which also border Ukraine, the Council on Foreign Relations reported. Most of the refugees are women and children, Grandi said.

"In addition to the grave situation inside Ukraine, hundreds of thousands are seeking refuge in neighboring countries," Grandi said in a briefing to the U.N. Security Council. "They need safety and protection, first and foremost, but also shelter, food, hygiene and other support, and they need it urgently."

Update 03/11/22, 11:25 a.m. ET: This story was updated to add more information and background.

Ukrainian Refugees in Poland
The U.K. plans to announce a plan to allow Ukrainian refugees to come into the country. Above, people wait for transportation after crossing the Ukrainian border at Medyka, eastern Poland, on March 11. Photo by Louisa Gouliamaki/AFP via Getty Images