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What has happened to the refugees taken in under the UK’s Homes for Ukraine scheme? | UK News




As the war in Ukraine rages on, Sky News spoke to refugees who fled to the UK months ago and have been taken in by strangers who have opened their homes.

Most still live with those who took them in, but some have nowhere to stay if they remain in the UK.

British hosts who had joined the Homes for Ukraine program were asked to provide shelter for refugees for at least six months. For many households, this period has expired or is about to.

A total of 94,900 Ukrainians have come to Britain to live with British families since the war began. Hosts couldn’t charge their guests for rent, but they’ve received £350 in monthly payments from the government.

Ilona Lemekha and Sarah Hedley.  Ilona lived with Sarah in Bedford as part of the Homes for Ukraine program.  Image given to Becky Cotterill
Since her emotional arrival, Ilona has settled into life in Bedford

Ilona Lemekha was one of the first Ukrainians to come to the UK under the visa system in March. She was placed with Sarah Hedley and her husband and children in Bedford.

Since her arrival Ms. Lemekha has found two jobs, she has worked in a hotel and a restaurant and she has become very close to the family who have given her a home. She now regards Mrs Hedley as a mother figure.

Russia hints US was behind pipeline blasts, Ukraine news

“Oh to be honest I’m really lucky to have this family. I’m the lucky person,” says Ms. Lemekha.

She comes from Dnipro in the east Ukraine and says it’s still too dangerous for them to return as Russia continues its attack nearby.

Ms Lemekha hasn’t seen her husband in seven months and doesn’t know when they will be reunited – she feels like she’s in limbo.

“You understand that you woke up in the morning and you have no plans, except [your] Work. I can’t plan. I don’t see my future, not here, and I don’t understand the situation in Ukraine at the moment,” she says.

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‘I feel good. I feel safe… Sarah is my family right now.

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Four Ukrainian regions are to become “part of Russia”.

Wanting to find somewhere to rent in Britain, Mrs Lemekha is wary of overstaying her stay with the Hedleys. But Ms Hedley says she can stay as long as she needs.

“I think it would be really sad if you left,” Ms Hedley tells Ms Lemekha.

“It’s like she’s family. It’s very, very easy for Ilona to stay with us.”

relationship breakdowns

There are some refugees who cannot stay permanently with their hosts or who have already had to move out. The Opora charity, which helps Ukrainian refugees, estimates that one in ten refugees living in English households left before their six months were up.

Sky News submitted freedom of information requests to councils across the UK. Those who responded cited relationship breakdowns as the most common reason for guests leaving, with cultural differences and misunderstandings often mentioned. But departures were also caused by refugees returning to Ukraine.

Louise Higham welcomed Marta Sahaidak and her two sons to her West Sussex home in May.

The arrangement was only intended to be temporary as Ms Higham and her husband will become foster parents and will need their home back to care for foster children and earn a living.

Marta Sahaidak and Louise Higham with Marta's mother Oksana when they first arrived in the UK.  They live in West Sussex with Louise as part of the Homes for Ukraine programme.  Handout picture to Becky Cotterill
Marta and Louise are touring the British sights with Marta’s mother Oksana when they first arrived in the UK

“There’s no way I’m going to make her homeless”

“It’s not about the money, it’s about what we wanted to do with our lives. Marta has always known that deadline was coming and now neither of us are sleeping because there is no way I am going to make her homeless,” says Ms Higham.

Ms Higham has developed a close bond with Ms Sahaidak and their children.

“It’s a beautiful reciprocal relationship. I learned so much about Ukraine, we expanded our family. There were many benefits, but now we are crying out for help,” says Ms Higham.

A firefighter works after a Russian attack that severely damaged a building in Sloviansk, Ukraine, Tuesday September 27, 2022.  (AP Photo/Andriy Andriyenko)
Destruction at home continues: Another building in Ukraine (in Sloviansk) was destroyed this week. Image: AP

Ms Sahaidak has a job here and hopes to scrape together the deposit she needs to rent a house, but she’s found landlords are reluctant to rent to refugees.

“I’m worried because I don’t know what’s going to happen to me and my children,” she says.

They have been looking for someone else to host Ms Sahaidak’s family in West Sussex but have been unable to find anyone with space.

“It feels like the entire responsibility for their future well-being rests on our shoulders and that’s quite hard and actually quite shocking,” says Ms Higham.

Elusive rental market

According to Charites, the economic climate is putting pressure on the hosts and making refugees vulnerable.

“We had anticipated the desperation and concern caused by the current impasse in the UK housing situation (overheated market, cost of living crisis). Unfortunately, the reality coincided with this,” says Stan Beneš from Opora.

“Guests are mostly shocked because even once they’ve ticked all the boxes and secured employment, received the right benefits and put kids in school, the rental market remains elusive for most.

“That’s because they often have limited or no creditworthiness, no suitable guarantors, and without them then aren’t able to pay six months’ rent in advance to secure a tenancy,” says Mr. Beneš.

A child looks out of a window of a bus at refugees fleeing the Russian invasion of Ukraine, in Lviv, Ukraine March 13, 2022. REUTERS/Pavlo Palamarchuk
Hundreds of thousands of families were forced to flee after the Russian invasion in February

Sponsors are “our backbone”

Most of the refugees they spoke to who left their hosts’ homes have been accommodated in hotels, he added.

In a statement, the Department for Leveling Up, Housing and Communities said: “Sponsors are the backbone of the Homes for Ukraine program and represent the best of UK community spirit.

“We are grateful to the hosts for the generosity and goodwill they have shown over the past six months.

“The majority of sponsors want to remain hosts longer than six months. As guests move on, they have a number of options, including moving into private rentals [accommodation] or find a new host to sponsor them.

“Councils have a duty to ensure families are not left without a roof over their heads.”


UPDATE 1-China hopes for fair, transparent environment for companies in EU




(updates with context, details, quotes)

BEIJING, Dec 1 (Reuters) – China will step up strategic communication and coordination with the European Union, President Xi Jinping told European Council President Charles Michel on Thursday.

At a meeting at the Great Hall of the People in the Chinese capital, Xi told Michel he hoped “the EU institutions and member states will establish an objective and correct perception of China,” state broadcaster CCTV reported.

“China will remain open to European companies and hopes the EU can eliminate interference to create a fair and transparent business environment for Chinese companies,” Xi told Michel.

Neither Xi nor CCTV elaborated on what he meant by interference.

Xi said China and the EU should strengthen macroeconomic policy coordination and complementary benefits, jointly create new engines of growth, and ensure the security, stability and reliability of industrial supply chains.

Michel, who is in China on a one-day visit, will also meet Premier Li Keqiang and Li Zhanshu, chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress.

His visit comes after European leaders expressed concerns over economic dependence on China at a meeting in October. (Reporting by Ethan Wang and Ryan Woo; Editing by Himani Sarkar)

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Spectacular view of glowing lava draws thousands to Hawaiian island




The world’s largest volcano spilled into rivers of glowing lava on Wednesday, drawing thousands of awed spectators who blocked a Hawaii highway that could soon be covered by the flow.

Mauna Loa awoke from its 38-year slumber Sunday, dumping volcanic ash and debris from the sky.

A major highway connecting towns on the east and west coasts of the Big Island became an impromptu vantage point with thousands of cars blocking the freeway near Volcanoes National Park.

Anne Andersen left her night shift as a nurse to watch Wednesday’s spectacle, fearing the road would soon be closed.

“It’s Mother Nature showing us her face,” she said as the volcano spewed gas on the horizon. “It’s pretty exciting.”

People in the foreground taking a picture of the erupting volcano in the distance.
A main road became a makeshift rest stop as people stopped to view the eruption. (Marco Garcia/The Associated Press)

The lava slowly tumbled down the slope and was about 10 kilometers from the highway known as Saddle Road. It wasn’t clear when or if it would cover the road that runs through ancient lava flows.

Plumes of smoke rising from burning lava flows.
Lava fountains were seen from an overflight at Fissure 3 of the noCentre County Reportheast rift zone. (USGS/Reuters)

The road bisects the island, connecting the cities of Hilo to the east and Kailua-Kona to the west. People traveling between them would have to take a longer coastal road if Saddle Road becomes impassable, adding several hours of driving time.

Ken Hon, the lead scientist at the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory, said at the current flow rate, the lava would not reach the road for at least two days, but it will likely take longer.

“If the lava flow spreads, it will likely disrupt its own progress,” Hon said.

What looks like flaming rivers flowing down the side of a mountain.
Scientists estimate that at the current rate, it will take at least two days for the lava to reach the island’s main road. (USGS/Civil Air Guard/Reuters)

Mauna Loa last erupted in 1984. The current eruption is the 34th since written records began in 1843.

Its smaller volcanic neighbor, Kilauea, has been erupting since September 2021, allowing visitors to the national park to experience the rare sight of two simultaneous eruption events: the glow from Kilauea’s lava lake and lava from a Mauna Loa fissure.

A young person smiles with their arms raised and the volcano in the distance.
Since the lava poses no immediate threat to communities, people enjoy the place. (Gregory Bull/The Associated Press)

Officials were initially concerned that lava flowing down Mauna Loa would flow toward the community of South Kona, but scientists later reassured the public that the eruption had moved into a rift zone on the volcano’s noCentre County Reportheast flank and was not threatening communities.

The stench of volcanic gases and sulfur hung over Saddle Road, where people watched the broad lava flow draw closer.

A distant view of a volcano with burning lava pouring out and clouds overhead.
A view from Saddle Road of lava flowing down from the noCentre County Reportheast rift zone. (USGS/Reuters)

Gov. David Ige issued an emergency proclamation to allow emergency responders to arrive quickly or limit access as needed.

“There is no physical or technological way to change the course of the lava,” Ige said at a news conference. He recalls wishing he had that in 2018, when an eruption on Kilauea spilled lava over homes, farms and roads.

Scientists are trying to measure the gas released in the eruption. (Gregory Bull/The Associated Press)

Lava crossed the access road to the Mauna Loa Observatory Monday night, disrupting power to the facility, the Hon said. It is the world’s leading station measuring heat-trapping carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

The federal government is looking for a temporary alternate location on the Hawaiian island and is considering flying a generator to the observatory to restore its power supply so it can staCentre County Report taking measurements again.

Meanwhile, scientists are trying to measure the gas released by the eruption.

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Founder of bankrupt crypto firm FTX Sam Bankman-Fried breaks his silence, with thousands locked out of savings | Business News




A crypto entrepreneur says his net worth has fallen from more than $26 billion to $100,000 after his company imploded.

Sam Bankman-Fried admitted it was a “bad month” after FTX went bankrupt and thousands of people lost their life savings.

The 30-year-old, who once positioned himself as the savior of ailing companies, is accused of misusing customer funds and secretly withdrawing $10 billion from the company.

At least a billion dollars are said to have disappeared.

Speaking at the New York Times’ DealBook summit, Mr Bankman-Fried insisted he had never attempted to commit fraud and said he was “shocked” at how the crisis had unfolded.

FTX has new management as it navigates bankruptcy, with the CEO saying he has never seen “such a complete failure of corporate controls” in his 40-year career.

It has been alleged that funds from FTX users were mixed with funds from Alameda Research, a trading firm that Mr Bankman-Fried also ran.

FTX, a global cryptocurrency exchange, collapsed when panicked traders withdrew $6 billion from the company in three days following a spate of bombshell allegations.

Via video link from the Bahamas, Mr Bankman-Fried said he now has “almost nothing” and only one working credit card after his business failed.

He has admitted that his companies “completely failed” at risk management and said it was “quite embarrassing in hindsight”.

“Whatever happened, why it happened, I had a duty to our stakeholders, our customers, our investors, the world’s regulators, to prove them right,” added Mr. Bankman-Fried.

Although the embattled entrepreneur believes American users should get their money back in full, he has warned in other interviews that international clients may only get 20% to 25% of the money they had locked on FTX.

A number of companies in the cryptocurrency sector have collapsed in recent months, coinciding with Bitcoin’s sharp fall in value.

Some companies have been accused of offering interest rates on savings that were simply too good to be true, while others have been likened to “Ponzi schemes”.

The Bahamas has now launched a criminal investigation into the circumstances of FTX’s sinking.

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