"We must be ready to help", says county council leader Nick Rushton
The county council is spearheading work to make sure that Leicestershire is prepared to welcome and support Ukrainian refugees when they arrive in the county.
More than two million people have so far fled the violence in Ukraine since the illegal Russian invasion began a fortnight ago.
They have been seeking safety in neighbouring countries and other parts of Europe, including the UK.
County council leader councillor Nick Rushton wants to ensure that Leicestershire is ready, willing and able to give assistance to any Ukrainian refugees fleeing President Vladimir Putin’s forces.
The British Government has extended a scheme to issue more visas to Ukrainians with relatives in the country and details are awaited of a ‘community sponsorship’ scheme which will support the arrival of others seeking refuge.
The authority has asked the Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland Local Resilience Forum (LRF) to set up a Ukrainian Refugees Group to help resettle refugees and deal with the challenges caused by them being forced to flee their war-torn country.
The new Leicestershire group will meet for the first time on Friday March 11, to coordinate the action to help Ukrainians.
The group is made up of the nine Leicestershire local authorities and Rutland County Council, the police and fire services, as well as NHS representatives, charities such as the British Red Cross and Government officials from the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities.
The county council is also preparing to play its part by helping find school places for children as well as supporting new arrivals with social care.
Cllr Rushton said: "We haven’t been given firm details about numbers of Ukrainian refugees coming here but we, as a council, and all our partners, must be ready to help them in every way they need.
"That’s why we have mobilised this resilience forum group early on.
"We are expecting mainly women and children who will have experienced terrible violence, trauma and disruption to their lives and they will need a lot of support.
"We will need proper Government support to make sure they get all the help and support they require. It is morally the right thing to do.”
Cllr Rushton added: “I’ve already had lots of emails from ordinary people pledging their help and support, such as the offer of a spare room. "It’s wonderful that, once again, Leicestershire people are showing their generosity and willingness to help those in desperate need."
"The LRF group will coordinate efforts and consider how to best help Ukrainians who are fleeing Putin the dictator’s war on their country. "It’s the very least we can do to assist those in a very desperate situation."
The Government has set up a website to advise people how they can make donations and apply to sponsor refugees from Ukraine.