Michelle Weir (Local Democracy Reporter)
Council hears Ukrainian families are “pleased and humbled” to be here away from wartorn home
A newborn baby was among Ukrainian families welcomed to the The Braid in Ballymena recently.
Deputy Mayor Cllr Beth Adger told a meeting of Mid and East Antrim Borough Council on Monday evening that she hosted a reception for Ukrainian families in the mayor’s parlour.
Among them, she said, was a baby who had been born since arrival in the borough.
She went on to say that the Ukrainian refugees were “so pleased and humbled to be here and away from their wartorn country” and thanked people of Ballymena and surrounding areas for all the work they are doing” on their behalf.
“They are so thankful and to all the local churches in the town which all got together to help out,” she added.
The UK Government’s Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities has reported that as of July 26, there have been 39 arrivals in Mid and East Antrim from Ukraine, of 123 visas issued and 149 visa applications.
In neighbouring Antrim and Newtownabbey, there have been 33 arrivals, from 75 visas issued and 98 visa applications, according to statistics provided by the Home Office.
Twelve council staff have been deployed to work in the Ukraine Assistance Centre at The Braid which has been operating weekly on Thursdays since April 14. A number of statutory and non-statutory representatives are also in attendance.
It has been providing “one-stop shop for advice and services for both Ukrainians and host families and has proved very beneficial to date”.
The UK Government’s Department for International Trade has thanked Mid and East Antrim Borough Council for its “positive and forward-leaning role” in supporting refugees from Ukraine.
To date, 1,146 Ukrainian refugees have arrived in Northern Ireland.
Of these, 970 have arrived through the Homes for Ukraine scheme and 176 through the Ukraine Family Scheme.
There have been 1,797 Homes for Ukraine applications connected to a Northern Ireland address and 1,300 visas relating to an address in Northern Ireland have been issued.
To date, 661 sponsor addresses have been referred for checks, 381 are considered suitable pending a final check and 87 have passed all checks. Fifty-five sponsors have been paid at a cost of £37,800.
In response to correspondence from Mid and East Antrim Borough Council, the Department for International Trade’s Ukraine Strategy and Co-ordination team has asked the local authority to provide more information about its concern that sanctions against Russia are being “circumvented”.
The council has been asked to pass on any concerns to HMRC’s fraud and tax avoidance reporting service.
The Department’s letter stated:
“HMRC work closely with other government departments and international partners to identify high risk movements and prevent the export and import of restricted goods.
“The government continues to keep the scope of sanctioned products under review.”