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UK May Use Sanctioned Houses of Russians to Relocate Ukrainian Refugees

© AFP 2023 / CHRISTOF STACHEVolunteers help Ukrainian refugees in a reception hall of the main railway station in Munich, southern Germany, on March 12, 2022
Volunteers help Ukrainian refugees in a reception hall of the main railway station in Munich, southern Germany, on March 12, 2022 - Sputnik International, 1920, 13.03.2022
Earlier this week, the heads of MI5 and MI6 reportedly warned UK Home Secretary Priti Patel against allowing "a complete open-door policy" towards Ukrainian refugees, purportedly due to the risk they could include Daesh* militants and mafia-linked criminals.
British Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing, and Communities Michael Gove has said that the government is looking at how they can use properties owned by Russian businessmen who were earlier sanctioned by London over Moscow's ongoing special military operation in Ukraine.

"I want to explore an option which would allow us [the government] to use the homes and properties of sanctioned individuals for as long as they are sanctioned for humanitarian and other purposes", Gove told the BBC, when asked if the homes could be used to accommodate Ukrainian refugees.

He admitted that "there is quite a high legal bar to cross and we're not talking about permanent confiscation [of the businessmen's properties]".

"[…] But we are saying, 'you're sanctioned, you're supporting [Russian President Vladimir] Putin, this home is here, you have no right to use or profit from it' and […] if we can use it in order to help others let's do that", the housing minister added.

This echoed a statement by British Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab, who said in early March that the UK would seize the properties of Russian moguls if a legal basis to do so exists.
Asked if he would support using such properties to house Ukrainian refugees, Raab said: "Yes, absolutely. We're looking at everything in the round".
Earlier this week, Russia's seven wealthiest and most influential businessmen, including Chelsea football club owner Roman Abramovich, "leading industrialist" Oleg Deripaska, and Igor Sechin, dubbed by London as "Putin's right-hand man", were slapped with a full asset freeze and travel ban.
As for Michael Gove's remarks they come after the chiefs of the UK's MI5 and MI6 purportedly warned Home Secretary Priti Patel not to water down visa requirements for Ukrainian refugees because those who are currently fleeing Ukraine amid Russia's ongoing special military operation there may include Daesh* terrorists, mercenaries, and mafia-linked criminals.

The Daily Mail cited unnamed senior intelligence sources as saying that Downing Street "cannot just allow a complete open-door policy", adding, "Ukraine is a melting pot at the moment, and we [the British security agencies] have already been presented with fake passports".

EU members, including France, have repeatedly reproached Patel for an alleged lack of urgency in aiding Ukrainian refugees. French President Emmanuel Macron argued that "despite all the grand statements […] the British government continued to apply current rules that meant they did not welcome Ukrainian refugees who wanted to reach Britain".
He apparently referred to Patel previously insisting that strict security checks and visa rules are needed to stop alleged Russian agents or terrorists from entering the UK. In an about-face earlier this week, though, the home secretary said that "Ukrainians with passports will no longer need to go to a visa application centre to give their biometrics before they come to the UK" and the process of getting permission to enter Britain will be conducted online.

The UN's refugee agency has since said that almost 2.6 million Ukrainians have fled their country since the beginning of the Russian special operation there on 24 February. The UK, for its part, has so far only granted about 960 visas out of at least 22,000 Ukrainian applications in progress, per reports.

Moscow's special operation, which aims to demilitarise and de-Nazify Ukraine, is only targeting the country's military infrastructure with high-precision weapons, which do not pose a threat to Ukrainian civilians, according to the Russian Defence Ministry.
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*Daesh (ISIL/ISIS/Islamic State) is a terrorist group banned in Russia and many other countries.
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