AT least 23 Ukrainian nationals have been welcomed into the Island so far – with 30 more potentially arriving ‘in the near future’, according to the Chief Minister.
Senator John Le Fondré said that Jersey remained ‘committed’ to the Family Visa Scheme, under which relatives of Ukrainian nationals living in Jersey can apply for a visa to seek refuge in the Island.
He made the comments yesterday, just days after Guernsey agreed to proceed with the introduction of a Homes for Ukraine sponsorship initiative.
The UK scheme of the same name allows people to become sponsors and provide accommodation to Ukrainian refugees without family ties locally.
Guernsey Chief Minister Peter Ferbrache said: ‘We will work very quickly on finalising the details, conscious that people have waited long enough for clarity on what will happen and when.
‘There is of course a need for speed in responding to this ongoing humanitarian crisis, but we need to do so in a way that ensures the scheme itself and our local essential services can still deliver, and don’t fall over.’
Jersey has so far chosen not to adopt such a model, although the government did ask Islanders to put their names forward if they were willing to house Ukrainian families fleeing the war-torn country – which resulted in more than 100 offers from residents.
Commenting on whether Guernsey’s decision had affected the Island’s stance, Senator Le Fondré said: ‘Jersey remains committed to supporting Ukraine and its people following the continued hostilities from Russia.
‘To date, Jersey has allocated more than £2m to assist the people of Ukraine, with Jersey Overseas Aid distributing the funds to support health facilities, vulnerable people, and to build the capacity of humanitarian teams in Ukraine and neighbouring countries. Jersey ranks among the highest per-capita donors to the UNHCR and we are incredibly grateful for their efforts and generosity of Islanders.’
He added that 23 Ukrainian citizens had been welcomed to the Island under the Family Visa Scheme.
‘Four more Ukrainian nationals are scheduled to arrive imminently, with approximately 30 more potentially coming to the Island in the near future. We remain committed to the Family Visa Scheme,’ he said.
‘Any possible expansion of visa entry into Jersey for Ukrainian refugees will be reviewed once we have resolved the significant restrictions of Jersey’s legal structure in terms of housing, employment, immigration controls, and benefits, which control the flow of new residents and migrants into the Island.’
Former States Deputy Jennifer Bridge, who was among those to offer accommodation to refugees, said: ‘I am fully aware of the wonderful outpouring of practical and financial support the Island has offered on the ground. However, it is important that we do play our part [in taking people in] because this is an enormous humanitarian crisis.
‘The government seems to have a different philosophy and appears to be using the financial aid as a justification for keeping the impact of the war far from our shores. Over a hundred people have offered accommodation and others have offered jobs. I think that having new people in the Island could be seen as an addition, not a drain.’
An online petition calling for the government to introduce a programme similar to the UK and Guernsey’s Homes for Ukraine scheme has attracted 78 signatures.