Michael Gove has said “tens of thousands” of refugees are expected to come to the UK amid the Ukraine crisis.
Gove, the government secretary for housing and “levelling up”, revealed the ballpark figure after Downing Street released details of a new scheme to help people fleeing the Russian invasion.
The Homes for Ukraine programme, to be rolled out this week, will allow individuals, charities, community groups and businesses to bring people escaping the war to safety - even if they have no ties to the UK.
Asked on Sky’s Sophy Ridge on Sunday programme if “tens of thousands is enough”, with countries like Poland having committed to taking 1.5m people and France 100,000, Gove said: “There are so many things we have to do. In a way, in the face of a crisis of this magnitude, we have to make sure we do what we can, when we can.
“That’s why our approach is phased, it’s also why it’s alongside the humanitarian support that we’re giving.”
The first refugees are expected “in a week’s time,” Gove added.
Under the scheme, Britons offering accommodation to Ukrainian refugees through the new route will receive a “thank you” payment of £350 per month.
People sponsoring refugees will be required to commit to the scheme for a minimum of six months, but are encouraged to keep up the offer for as long as they can.
Gove, asked if he will offer a room, told the programme: “I’m in the process of seeking to see what I can do, yes.”
Watch: Fighting in Volnovakha leaves Ukranian city devastated
It comes after the government has been heavily criticised for the speed and scale of its efforts to bring fleeing Ukrainians to the UK.
The UK’s ambassador to Ukraine, Melinda Simmons, told the Sunday Times she “totally gets the criticism”.
And Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer, appearing on Sophy Ridge on Sunday after Gove, said it has been “an embarrassment”.
“The likelihood of an invasion of Ukraine was known weeks ago. The Home Office have been far too slow, far too mean in relation to this.”
Starmer added there should not be a cap on the number of refugees allowed into the country: “We should provide sanctuary to all of those who are fleeing for their lives that want to come to the UK and play our full part.”
Gove said the government has had to guard against a “tiny minority” who might be “intent on exploitation” of the scheme.