UCL Grand Challenges


UK reception policies and practices vis-à-vis displaced Ukrainian refugees

Understanding the UK's response to the Ukraine refugee crisis and the experiences of displaced Ukrainians in the UK.

Refugees Welcome - James Paskins

1 September 2022


Grant: Grand Challenges Special Initiatives - Place
Year awarded: 2022-23
Amount awarded: £10,000


  • Prof Mette Louise Berg, Social Research Institute, Institute of Education (IOE)
  • Prof Jo Billings, Division of Psychiatry, Brain Sciences

More than 7.5 million Ukrainians have fled their country, according to the United Nations. In 2022, the UK government introduced two visa routes to support Ukrainians displaced because of Russia’s invasion, the Ukraine Family Scheme and the Homes for Ukraine Scheme, both relying on private individuals hosting displaced Ukrainians. According to the House of Commons Library, the UK has issued more than 133,000 visas. 

The research project took a place-based approach to a gain real-time understanding of the UK’s response to the Ukraine refugee crisis and the experiences of displaced Ukrainians in the UK. The project examined how hosting schemes mould the experiences of Ukrainians and hosts in the London Borough of Newham and Oxford. 

Through a digital auto-ethnographic method, Prof Berg and Prof Billings conducted interviews with multiple stakeholders. These included policymakers and practitioners from the local authority and refugee reception settings, refugees housed via the Homes for Ukraine scheme, hosts under the scheme, and experts on refugee mental health. The interviews highlighted that the range of ‘new actors’ who have stepped in to provide support for people arriving from Ukraine was greater than other groups of people fleeing from other conflicts and wars seeking asylum in the UK. There was considerable diversity within and among Ukrainians, such as their language, their journeys, trajectories to the UK and socio-economic backgrounds. Additionally, the findings showed settling in the UK was especially difficult for teenagers separated from their peers, schools, and wider family. These findings contribute to the insights into the interaction between reception policies, place-based responses, and mental health. The importance of considering these issues and providing support for the mental health of refugees from Ukraine in the UK was a focus of a House of Commons Insight Report.

Prof Berg and Prof Billings were invited to participate in an international consortium, which successfully bid for research grant funding from the Norwegian Directorate for Migration and Diversity. The project report will be published in January 2024.

Outputs and Impacts

  • International Consortium 
  • Main Report [published in January 2024]
  • Website
  • Presentation to the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, and the Home Office.