The British people have demonstrated this week that they are very willing to help the Ukrainian refugees with over 100,000 families offering accommodation in their homes. This is great news and again shows to the Government we are a humanitarian nation.
However, the process of getting people to these homes could be long and drawn out so why not stage an “Operation Nightingale’’ for the refugees? We did it in Covid so why not now?
The Ukrainian refugee crisis is an emergency, and it requires emergency action. The UK needs an ‘Operation Nightingale’ approach to helping these victims of Mr Putin’s aggression. The UK Government should use its emergency powers to commandeer empty buildings which could be used to house refugees whilst better accommodation is being sought. Here in Lewes District, there are examples of empty buildings such as the former NHS building in Friars Walk, Lewes (feature photo above) and the UTC building in Newhaven. Such buildings already have toilet facilities, and it wouldn’t take much to kit them out with temporary shower units and kitchens.
There is a big role also for the Lewes District Council and the East Sussex County Council. We already know that the District Council are intending to rehouse themselves at the County Hall building taking up already vacant office space at County Hall. The District Council could delay the leasing of their building to Charleston House Trust and turn over their officies for emergency accommodation.
This approach could be repeated across the UK. In England alone, there are 333 district, county and borough councils. Each of these should be asked to review publicly owned property with a view to setting up a ‘Ukrainian Refugees Operation Nightingale’
This should be linked with one important, but simple step, the British Government needs to bring down the barriers and allow Ukrainian refugees to come to the UK visa free. The rest of Europe has taken such a measure so why not the UK?