Unaccompanied Ukrainian children and teenagers could be allowed to come to the UK under changes expected to be announced on Wednesday, it has been reported.
Home Secretary Priti Patel will announce that children and teenagers will be allowed to come to the UK if they have permission from a parent or legal guardian and the Ukrainian government, The Daily Telegraph has reported.
Current Home Office guidance states that under-18s can only come to the UK via the Homes for Ukraine scheme if they are travelling with their parent or legal guardian, or reuniting with them here.
We keep eligibility for all our schemes under review
It is understood the UK Government is exploring whether the Homes for Ukraine scheme could be safely opened up to more children, amid the ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Neither the Home Office nor the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities would confirm the paper’s report when approached on Monday evening.
Both instead provided the same statement, which said: “It is tragic that children have been caught up in Putin’s war.
“We have a responsibility to keep children safe and, as the public rightly expect, we have put robust processes in place to protect them once they arrive in the country, working closely with councils throughout.
“Only under-18s who are travelling with, or reuniting with a parent or legal guardian in the UK, are currently eligible for Homes for Ukraine but as we have always said, we keep eligibility for all our schemes under review.”
It comes after Ms Patel indicated to the House of Commons on Monday that changes could be made to the Homes for Ukraine scheme to help children trying to reach the UK with family members who are not their parents.
Labour MP Dame Diana Johnson, chair of the Home Affairs Select Committee, asked about expanding visa eligibility under the scheme to children travelling with grandparents and older siblings.
Ms Patel replied: “We are absolutely looking at this, and there is a lot of work taking place across not just the Home Office but with the refugee minister and also the department for local communities on the safeguarding aspect.
“We are going to make changes.”