Unaccompanied children and teenagers from Ukraine could be allowed to come to the UK under changes expected to be announced on Wednesday, it has been learned.
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, reports the Daily Telegraph.
Current Home Office guidelines state that under-18s can only come to the UK through the Homes for Ukraine scheme if they are traveling with their parent or legal guardian, or if they are reunited with them here.
We keep eligibility for all our programs under review
It is understood the UK government is exploring whether the Homes for Ukraine scheme could be safely opened to more children, amid the ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Neither the Home Office nor the Department for Leveling Up, Housing and Communities confirmed the newspaper’s report when approached on Monday evening.
Instead, the two provided the same statement, which read, “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 expects, we have robust processes in place to protect them once they arrive in the country, working closely collaboration with councils everywhere.
“Only those under 18 who are traveling 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 are continuing to review eligibility for all of our programs. “
It comes after Ms Patel told 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.
Labor MP Dame Diana Johnson, chair of the Home Affairs Select Committee, asked about extending visa eligibility under the scheme to children traveling with grandparents and older siblings .
Ms Patel replied: ‘We are absolutely looking at that, and there is a lot of work going on not only in the Home Office but with the Minister for Refugees and also the Department of Local Communities on the safeguard aspect.
“We will make changes.”