Ukrainian refugees in search of safe homes in the United Kingdom are at risk of sexual exploitation by British men, according to a report.
An investigation by The Times has revealed that British men are offering “safe homes” on social media to female refugees fleeing war in their home country in return for sexual favors.
A new plan by the British government requires refugees to connect with their British hosts directly, which has forced thousands of people to resort to unregulated Facebook groups to link up.
As part of the investigation, an undercover reporter from The Times posed as a 22-year-old Natalya from Kiev who was “bombarded with inappropriate and sexually suggestive messages from men seeking relationships” minutes after she posted on the largest Facebook group for UK hosts.
One of the male hosts sent a voice message saying: “I am ready to help you and maybe you can help me also.”
According to the report, British men ask female refugees to share a bed in exchange for their stay, and in some cases, get married for sponsorship into the UK.
Out of the 75 private messages that the reporter received during two days, 41 were from single men who lived alone and made inappropriate proposals.
A 32-year-old woman from Ukraine’s Bakhmut told the Guardian newspaper that she had received suggestive messages from men on Facebook’s Messenger app, offering sponsorship in return for sex.
In protest against the government’s Homes for Ukraine scheme, Refugee charity Refugee Action said that the new measures are not safe enough for the refugees.
“What we have is a government-run scheme that is leaving women at risk of sexual exploitation,” Louise Calvey, the head of services and safeguarding at Refugee Action, was quoted as saying.
“Criminal record checks do not pick up sexual predators who have no criminal record, allowing them to register and pass checks to sponsor a refugee in their home,” Calvey said, stressing that if the scheme continues in this manner, some refugees would face dangerous situations.
The UN refugee agency has called on the UK government to stop matching single British men with lone Ukrainian women because of fears of sexual exploitation.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has said that “more appropriate measures are needed to ensure female refugees are matched with families or couples.
“The UNHCR believes that a more appropriate matching process could be put in place by ensuring that women and women with children are matched with families or couples, rather than with single men,” the agency said in a statement.
“Matching done without the appropriate oversight may lead to increasing the risks women may face, in addition to the trauma of displacement, family separation, and violence already experienced,” it added.
Those who want to move to the UK must have a sponsor before applying for a visa.
The development came after the UK government announced that it plans to forcefully transfer asylum seekers to the East African nation of Rwanda, claiming the measure would stop human smugglers from sending desperate migrants on treacherous journeys across the English Channel.
The new plan has drawn harsh criticism both locally and internationally.