A SCOTTISH charity has warned that female refugees fleeing Ukraine are at risk of exploitation through the UK Government’s "Homes for Ukraine" scheme. 

Glasgow-based charity Positive Action in Housing (PAIH) said that they have received reports from young Ukrainian women who claim they have been offered refuge and accommodation in exchange for sex.

Speaking to The Scotsman, director Robina Qureshi (below) warned that the Homes for Ukraine scheme would be “shut down by any regulator” were it to be carried out by an NGO as opposed to the UK Government. 

She said: “We are right now observing safeguarding breaches and unsafe situations on an industrial scale as a result of the Homes for Refugees Scheme.

The National: Robina Qureshi CM

"This scheme has lost all credibility as a trusted route for women, children and young people. The government sidelined NGOs and established hosting networks and this is the mess created – war refugees being directed down the road of human trafficking.

“Now so-called sponsors registered with Homes for Ukraine have gone onto social media to offer shelter for sex to war refugees. Who is the genuine sponsor and who is the trafficker? Nobody knows for sure.

“We are worried that Ukrainian refugees, especially children and young people as young as 13, confuse the official registered email from Homes for Ukrainians sent to those who sign up to the Government’s register, and think the sponsor is legitimate and cleared. 

“We were in visceral shock when we saw what was unfolding.”

This comes as a coalition of 16 refugee and anti-trafficking organisations, including Refugee Council, warned that the Homes for Ukraine scheme risks operating as a "Tinder for sex traffickers". 

Elsewhere, the Homes for Ukraine scheme has been criticised for being an unsuitable gateway for refugees seeking sanctuary, with critics pointing to the looming backlogs faced. 

While the UK Government stated that “the UK will welcome as many Ukrainians as wish to come”, the scheme to date has only granted 4700 visas in comparison to 32,200 applications made under the scheme. 

Commenting on the figures, Sonya Sceats, chief executive of the Freedom From Torture charity said: “In a month where people across the country signed up to welcome more refugees than the Government has in 10 years, these woeful numbers prove why visa-based schemes are an unsuitable gateway for refugees fleeing Ukraine to reach safety here in the UK.

“Increasing reports of horrendous sexual violence against Ukrainian women and girls make it all the more urgent for the Government to cut the red tape so that survivors can get here quickly and access services from specialist trauma services like Freedom From Torture.”

A UK Government spokesperson said: “Exploitation through 'sex for rent' or human trafficking is illegal and has no place in our society – those with evidence of law breaking should go to the police. 

“We have designed our Homes for Ukraine scheme specifically to have safeguards in place – including robust security and background checks on all sponsors, both by the Home Office and local authorities.

“Registering your expression of interest in becoming a sponsor does not mean an individual has passed security checks, and all sponsors must go through these checks. For the safety of the applicant, no visa will be issued until these Home Office checks have been completed.”