A Tenby county councillor has proposed to Pembrokeshire Council’s leader that empty properties across the county such as second homes could be utilised to house Ukrainian refugees.

In correspondence sent to PCC leader Clr. David Simpson, as well as the authority’s cabinet member for housing, Clr. Michelle Bateman, and director of resources Jonathan Haswell, county councillor for Tenby’s north ward Clr. Michael Williams stated that the high number of properties that are empty for on average ten months of the year, could be used for the cause.

“Given the growing humanitarian crisis in Europe and the move, at last, of the Westminster Government to make access to Wales somewhat easier might it be the time for Local Authorities to step up and welcome Ukrainian refugees in a practical and new way?” said Clr. Williams.

“I would suggest that as in many parts of Wales we see a huge number of properties that are empty for on average ten months of the year that Local Authorities might consider requisitioning second homes to house refugee families?

“It might be possible to offer a tax incentive, possibly relating to the second home premium, which might encourage property owners to make available their properties.

“Given the degree of public support for Ukrainian people this would be a practical way of offering assistance without putting further pressure on our own increasingly worrying local housing needs,” he added.

On Tuesday, Wales’ First Minister, Mark Drakeford confirmed the Welsh Government’s support for the UK Government’s ‘Homes for Ukraine’ scheme.

“The UNHCR – the UN’s Refugee Agency – estimates more than 2.5m people have fled Ukraine since Russia invaded this sovereign European country almost three weeks ago,” said Mr. Drakeford.

“People – mainly women, older and vulnerable people and children – are leaving their homes to try and find safety from the relentless shelling and the Russian government’s attacks either elsewhere in their country or beyond Ukraine’s borders. Many have found sanctuary in our European neighbours.

“We welcome the steps the UK Government has taken over recent days to make it easier for those fleeing the violence in Ukraine to apply for visas or sponsorship to come to the UK.

“Over the weekend, the First Minister of Scotland and I wrote to the Rt Hon Michael Gove MP, Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Communities and Housing, confirming our governments’ support for the UK Government’s Homes for Ukraine scheme.

“We have proposed Wales and Scotland will act as respective ‘super sponsors’ under the new scheme.

“Wales has committed to supporting an initial 1,000 people in the first phase of the scheme – this figure is based on our experience of the successful Afghan and Syrian resettlement schemes. But we are committed to building on this and to taking our fair and proportionate share of the Ukrainian refugees who come to the UK.

“We will work closely with the UK Government as the details of this scheme develop and are finalised to ensure we are ready to receive refugees from this weekend when the first visas and matches under the new scheme are issued.

“In the meantime, we are working closely with Wales’ 22 local authorities, the Welsh Local Government Association, the WCVA, the Wales Strategic Migration Partnership and wider partners to make preparations to welcome refugees to Wales.

“I am very grateful for the close working relationship we have with local authorities and the third sector in Wales.

“We want to ensure the right support is available to all those coming to Wales from Ukraine – whether via the new Homes for Ukraine scheme or via the family visa route – especially for those people who may be experiencing trauma from the impact of the conflict in their home country.

“Much work has already been done and we are building on our collective experience as a Nation of Sanctuary.

“We stand in solidarity with Ukraine and there will be a warm welcome to all those who come to Wales,” added the First Minister.

In working with the Government on the ‘Homes for Ukraine’ refugee scheme, it is believed that Pembrokeshire County Council are initially conducting planning for circa 250+ coming to Pembrokeshire; and are conducting meetings with third sector and other public sector partners to develop and deliver appropriate plans.

The local authority has already received offers of support from the public, and are considering a range of options of suitable accommodation, from - private households to holiday accommodation.

Welsh Minister for Social Justice, Jane Hutt provided an update about the ‘Homes for Ukraine’ scheme in Wales today (March 16): “We are committed to doing everything we can to support people fleeing the war in Ukraine and providing sanctuary and safety in Wales.

“There is a warm welcome waiting in Wales.

“The First Minister has confirmed our intention to become a super-sponsor for the UK Government’s Homes for Ukraine scheme, which will provide a route for people to come to the UK for up to three years.

“We are continuing to work with the UK Government to finalise details to enable the first matches to be made under this scheme. We are also working very closely with Wales’ councils and third sector organisations to ensure the right support is available for people from Ukraine arriving in Wales.

“This includes planning welcome centres and ensuring access to all the wrap-around services people arriving from a war zone may need.

“I am grateful for their support and hard work at this crucial time,” she continued.

“The Homes for Ukraine scheme is being designed for people from Ukraine who want to come to the UK if they have someone here willing to provide them with a home.

“It enables individuals in the UK to volunteer accommodation and provide a route to safety for Ukrainians, and their immediate family members, who have been forced by the war to escape their homeland.

“Visas will be granted once a named individual refugee has been matched with a named individual sponsor who has registered to provide accommodation for at least six months.

“People arriving under this scheme will be able to live and work in the UK for up to three years and access healthcare, benefits, employment support, education, and English language tuition.

“A separate scheme is available for people in the Ukraine who have family in the UK.

“We have been overwhelmed by the generosity of people in Wales and the offers of support for people in Ukraine.

“People who have a room in their home and want to help, can register their details for the Homes for Ukraine scheme online.

“There will be some people who are able to offer more than just a room in their home – some will be uniquely placed to be able to offer an entire building, house or property. We will provide a further update about how people can make such an offer to support refugees arriving in Wales.

“I will provide further updates to Members of the Senedd as the Homes for Ukraine scheme develops in Wales,” she added.

The local authority have today (March 17) released the following statement: “Pembrokeshire County Council is working with colleagues in the Welsh and UK administrations in regards to preparedness planning on this fluid situation.

“We understand that many will want to assist during this time of crisis. Please visit the Welsh Government website for information on what support is available and advice for those wishing to make a donation.

“To ensure consistency, people who have a room in their home and want to help, can register their details for the Homes for Ukraine scheme online at: https://homesforukraine.campaign.gov.uk

“Further accommodation options are also currently being developed in conjunction with Welsh Government, and details of these will be published as more detail is known.

“We stand in support with Ukraine and admire the incredible bravery being shown by the country’s armed forces and civilians alike, while hoping for a lasting peace.”

Donations of money to the DEC Ukraine Appeal can be made at www.dec.org.uk