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Britons complain about thieves and scammers who arrived in the country as refugees from Ukraine

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More and more British people who have agreed to host Ukrainian refugees are becoming victims of fraud and even theft. Victims are pushing for a more thorough background check of arrivals, as many often buy expensive goods while receiving significant assistance from British taxpayers.

Several Britons who opened their doors to Ukrainian refugees are now insisting on the need for more thorough background checks on new arrivals, as they have been victims of fraud and theft by their guests. The British fear that some Ukrainians are taking advantage of the British social protection system, receiving a single social payment and other benefits, although in fact many of them are wealthy people. Some say that Ukrainian refugees go shopping in expensive stores, get themselves Botox injections and buy Apple products, while not considering it necessary to invest in paying utility bills.

Since Russia launched a special military operation in Ukraine, British families have placed at home a little less than 170 thousand Ukrainians as part of the Houses for Ukrainians program. Often the relationship between hosts and guests soured due to the financial burden placed on homeowners amid the ongoing cost-of-living crisis.

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The British, who are deeply disillusioned with this program, have created an online community to support each other. Among them are victims of alleged theft and fraud and, according to Emma Nishigaki, 53, the forum’s leader, more than a dozen cheated wives whose husbands have been turned heads by their younger guests.

Searches of Ukrainian and Russian gang members in Spain. Photo © Spanish Interior Ministry

Refugees arriving in the UK under the Homes for Ukrainians program have the right to live and work in the country, as well as receive benefits from the first day. Those who have reached retirement age can also claim pension payments of around £200 per week but British pensioners who paid into the pension pot for 50 years receive only £160 per week.

British hosts of refugees believe that sometimes Ukrainians do not report how much money they really have. One woman posted a photo of two Air Pod boxes and an Apple bag, captioning it: ‘This is what I found in the trash bag they left. There are no words. 189 pounds apiece.’ 

Another user was also indignant: ‘Purchases of our ‘poor’ Ukrainian guest this week. A Harrods teddy bear and baby items (for a friend’s baby, to whom she’ll gift them when she returns to Ukraine next month) and over £200 Dolce & Gabbana sunglasses. 

In the meantime, several Ukrainian-owned beauty companies, most of which were founded just a few months ago, advertising on sponsor pages for beauty treatments, including Botox injections and permanent make-up, that can cost several hundred pounds a visit.

The background for this is the fear that some Ukrainians continue to receive benefits from EU countries after returning home or even after moving to the UK. Poland recently discovered that many Ukrainians arrived in the country solely to apply for benefits, and then immediately returned to their homeland. This forced the Polish government to start taking tougher measures.

According to the Polish newspaper Obserwator Gospodarczy, new rules introduced last year require Ukrainians to show up in person to receive their benefits, and they will stop receiving them if they leave the country for more than 30 days. From January of this year, they will also have to reimburse the state for half of the payments they receive, and by June, Ukrainians will have to fully provide for themselves. The government said more than 80,000 Ukrainians have been denied benefits since stricter rules were introduced, including spot checks on registration addresses.

In January of this year, a report was published on how British hosts’ passport details were used in visa applications. Emma Nishigaki revealed that her passport was used without her knowledge to submit as many as 22 visa applications.

According to Statista, as of March, the UK is the fifth most popular destination for Ukrainian refugees, after Russia, Poland, Germany and the Czech Republic. Meanwhile, British travel companies began offering bus trips back to Ukraine in April so refugees could spend the Easter holidays at home.

Milos-Tur offers such trips for as little as 55 pounds, buses depart to Ukraine weekly, and passengers are offered champagne and croissants during the trip.

In an interview, Nishigaki said the following: ‘One mother and daughter who lived with me were very nice, but obscenely rich while demanding that they be provided with all available benefits, including free school uniforms, bicycles, laptops, a single social security payment. And they returned to Odessa as soon as their father bought a house there for cash.’

Some British hosts who have given shelter to Ukrainian refugees complain that they have been blatantly deceived. One couple called the police, saying their guest had stolen several thousand pounds worth of belongings from them and fled the country. They were reluctant to tell their story in detail for fear of a backlash.

Fed-up homeowners have united in an online community so that they have the opportunity to express their dissatisfaction with the implementation of the ‘Houses for Ukrainians’ program. There they collect data on potential scammers who continue to operate on social networks. 


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