Ukrainian refugees in the UK feel welcomed but worried about an uncertain future

(Photo: Getty/iStock)

A year to the day since Russia invaded Ukraine, refugees who fled to the UK feel welcomed but worried about their future, with many finding employment, housing and the language barrier an ongoing challenge.

In the Sanctuary Foundation's survey of nearly 2,000 Ukrainian refugees living in the UK, nearly all (99%) said they were grateful to be in the country, with nearly one in 10 (9%) planning to stay here permanently. 

Nearly half (46%) said they were sad not to be in Ukraine and two in five (19%) said they were definitely planning to return to their country at some point. The vast majority of those surveyed, however, are undecided. 

Two thirds of respondents are living with host families and 90% of children are attending British schools. 

Over half are living in the south-east or south-west of England, and over two thirds (70%) have at least one child with them in the UK.

The vast majority of respondents said that they had received a warm welcome to the UK, giving an average score of 9.4 out of 10 for the warmth of welcome.

Most respondents (89%) cited their UK hosts as the main reason why they felt so warmly welcomed, but immigration schemes, local refugee hubs, other refugees, neighbours, religious groups and schools were also important factors.

Over half (53%) said that work was one of their biggest challenges, followed by housing (40%).

Over a third are currently looking for a job and a similar number (34%) said that they are employed in a lower level of job than what they had before in Ukraine. One in seven (14%) even said they felt humiliated by their work situation, while over a quarter (27%) expressed frustration.

The survey also found that seven in 10 (71%) fear for the future of Ukraine.

Dr Krish Kandiah, director of Sanctuary Foundation, said there was more to be done. 

"Britain is a compassionate and welcoming country - the statistical evidence is overwhelming. One year after Ukrainians fled the barbaric invasion of their country, survey results show that they have felt welcomed (99%), that their hosts have made a huge positive difference to their lives (89%) and that their children have transitioned well to schools here (74%)," he said.

"We should be tremendously proud of ourselves as a country - for stepping up and supporting 160,000 Ukrainian refugees over the past year in ways that were profoundly meaningful. But we cannot rest on our laurels.

"There are ongoing challenges of welcome, finding work and sourcing worthwhile housing for our new Ukrainian friends and neighbours. And refugees from other war-torn countries who need our help too. Let's be proud of all we have done, but let's also get on with all that still needs to be done."

He added, "Putin has raised the stakes in the war against Ukraine this week by suspending the nuclear arms deal. Let's respond to his hostility with hospitality. Let's raise the stakes in the only way we can - by reaching out to more Ukrainians and welcoming them even more heartily to our country and community."