Sunday 7 May 2023

Some Ukrainian refugees to the UK smuggled in cats and dogs

Under the UK's Homes for Ukraine scheme which started not soon after Russia's invasion of Ukraine, many of the refugees were women. Some were with children and many were from the capital, Kyiv. They had managed to leave the country fairly early during the war by firstly crossing into Poland.

Some Ukrainian refugees to the UK smuggled in pets
Some Ukrainian refugees to the UK smuggled in pets. Image:

I can recall at that time, that there was a hugely bureaucratic system for getting companion animals into the UK as they accompanied their refugee owners. There are some real difficulties in that scheme because they had to overcome the usual barriers of importing pets into the UK. There's rabies in Ukraine but there's no rabies in the UK. That probably is the number one difficulty requiring caution by the UK authorities.

I'm told today by a social worker who was helping arrivals into the country that some female Ukrainian refugees smuggled pets through immigration. The social worker tells me that:
"One young woman arrived with her son and a cat and a large dog, to find her hosts were expecting her to sleep in an unheated garden shed. She eventually returned to Ukraine, having decided her quality of life would be better there."
There are two things about that quote. Firstly, the Homes for Ukraine scheme although hugely beneficial to more than 120,000 refugees was not faultless. There was some abuse and some exploitation and, in some cases, the British hosts were not really in a position to provide temporary housing for their refugee guests. Some Ukrainians decided to take the risk of living in their own home in their own surroundings are went back.

The second point is that some refugees smuggled their pets into the country understandably I would say because of the huge amount of bureaucracy and delay that was occurring at the time.

Perhaps the most important point to make about the Homes for Ukraine scheme was that it demonstrated the generosity of the vast majority of UK citizens both in terms of general charitable donations and in helping out the refugees.

It should be added by the way that not all of them were desperate and in a dire state. After the initial influx of female refugees, some men followed. Some were of a fighting age and therefore they should not have been allowed to have left Ukraine under that country's current legislation which demands that they fight the Russians.

And they were all given benefits to help live despite some of them being well off as the social worker mentions that one couple were in the process of buying a BMW!

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