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April 2022

How beekeeping made me think about the safeguarding needs of Ukraine refugees

One of the CSEs I really enjoyed at school was Rural Studies. The course included bee keeping, which covered bee anatomy (did you know bees have two stomachs?), bee management, bee diseases, as well as how honey is produced.

We were taught this by Mr Koppany, or Mr K to us. Mr K spoke with a strong eastern European accent; he settled in this country after escaping the war. He shared a few details of what happened to him as a young man, but at the time I never really appreciated his story, what he went through, or knew what support he was offered when he arrived.

Beekeeping also came up in a separate conversation I had with a colleague who told me about a novel called The Beekeeper of Aleppo.

I have not yet read this 2019 international bestseller by Christy Lefteri which is about Nuri, a beekeeper and Afra, his artist wife, fleeing Aleppo after their son was killed in bombing during the Syrian Civil War.

'Do give it a go Walter' said my colleague … 'It has such relevance to the current crisis [in Ukraine] and the concerns expressed about safeguarding those fleeing the war from abuse and harm. It highlights some of the trauma that refugees could be experiencing and the risks they face.'

Like Nuri and Afra, millions are now fleeing the war in Ukraine after the Russian invasion on the 24 February.

Many people in Norfolk and across the country have been looking at ways to support those affected. You may be considering taking part in the government’s ‘Homes for Ukraine’ scheme, where you can offer space in your own home or a separate property to a Ukrainian individual or family who have been made refugees because of the war.

Many have been working to organise support to welcome Ukrainians arriving in April in the absence of more detailed central guidance. I am so impressed and proud of how Norfolk's district councils, our libraries, NCC’s Adults From Aboard Team, the mental health trust and many charities, community groups and businesses have stepped into the gap to do this. For example South Norfolk District Council and colleagues from Norfolk Council County hosted an information session, you can watch it here.

This blog is dedicated to all those who have been working quickly at very short notice and with limited information to make those arrangements.

I also wanted to highlight some emerging safeguarding risks. A coordinated collective response to the threat of slavery faced by Ukrainian refugees entering the UK is now in play across key organisations like The Human Trafficking Foundation, British Red Cross and others.

As Dame Sara Thornton, UK Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner (IASC) said: 

"As part of that response, and longer term, it is vitally important that we put systematic measures in place to ensure that the risks of exploitation do not become a reality. I will be meeting with experts, government officials and service providers to share information and good practice." (24 March 2022)

In Norfolk the district councils will be visiting hosts to check homes are suitable, and the libraries will provide meeting ‘hubs’ for refugees. A County coordination group is looking at health and social care provision as well as education facilities.

The safeguarding risks fall into two broad topics:

  • ‘safeguarding’ support to those who are coming to the UK in relation to care & support and trauma
  • host families – including checks on their suitability and what they need to be aware of (it is a huge commitment, and refugees are likely to be suffering considerable trauma)

Potential safeguarding concerns (my thanks to Paula Ward from Thurrock SAB here) include:

  • Impact of trauma – support needs to be available for families (initially and longer term)
  • Risks of homelessness if placement breaks down (placement duration is 6 months); Ukrainian families will be entitled to claim benefits, work and access public services from day one
  • Risk of exploitation:
    - criminals wishing to exploit refugees may use individuals with ‘clean’ records to act as a sponsor, including those who are themselves victims of exploitation
    - increase in sex for rent –cases reported in media in Poland, Russia and Ireland
    - labour exploitation
  • Increase in trafficking - “What we’re already beginning to pick up on the border across Poland, Romania, and other countries that surround Ukraine is stories, evidence of people traffickers operating and people disappearing,” the CEO of Unseen UK, Andrew Wallis. Also see BBC News report How the sex trade preys on Ukraine's refugees - BBC News
  • Possible increase in hate crime locally – several of my colleagues from around the county have reported local social media sites saying we should be supporting “our own” first
  • Safeguarding/risks of exploitation for children, especially those that are unaccompanied
  • Access to basic translation/interpretation services

What can we do …

  1. If you have signed up to the Homes for Ukraine scheme and are in the process of sponsoring a family or individual, can you spot a safeguarding concern? You can get bite size information on the types of abuse to look out for on the NSAB website.

  2. If you know a colleague or friend who has offered support to a Ukrainian family, please share this blog with them

  3. If you are working as part of the direct support to hosts, please share this blog with them.

Help make everyone supporting those fleeing the war aware of the potential safeguarding risks.

Thank you.

Safeguarding poster designed for Ukrainian refugees

With the anticipated arrival of Ukrainian refugees into the country, we have slightly modified our campaign poster, and it has been translated into the Ukrainian language, to read:

See something, hear something, say something
If you do not feel safe or your host does not make you feel safe, or you are in danger please call 0344 8008020
If it is an emergency and you need help now please call 999

Walter Lloyd-Smith
NSAB Board Manager

Email: [email protected]

Tuesday 05 April 2022