No 10 eyes Chelsea FC mansions and hotel as options to house refugees
The government is studying whether Ukrainian refugees could be housed in the mansions of sanctioned Russian oligarchs, Downing Street said.
Ministers have faced calls for the sprawling homes of those affected by UK government measures to be turned into homes for those fleeing war in Ukraine.
Downing Street on Monday confirmed it was reviewing whether the properties could be used, although it is thought new legislation would be needed.
It has also been suggested that the Chelsea Football Club hotel could be used after owner Roman Abramovich was blacklisted by the government.
Asked about the mansions, the Prime Minister’s official spokesperson said: ‘It is certainly something we are looking at.
“I think first and foremost the two (visa) pathways we have are how we expect people to be housed in the UK, either through family or through this sponsorship pathway. .”
Earlier, Sajid Javid said that although mansions should not be the “first place” considered, work was underway to see if they could be used.
“I think there will be legal hurdles to try to do that, but it’s true that (Michael Gove) is looking broadly to see how we can house more and more Ukrainian refugees.”
Downing Street has also not ruled out the Chelsea Football Club hotel being used to house Ukrainian refugees.
The Prime Minister’s official spokesperson said: ‘We would certainly like to see wherever possible (used), we are open to all options.
“There are some challenges around the special license that was created in relation to the sanctions.”
But “overall the vast majority of people” coming from Ukraine would be accommodated under the two previously announced routes.
London Mayor Sadiq Khan said it would be a form of “poetic justice” to reallocate the mansions.
He told Times Radio: “For some time, I and others have complained about these Russian oligarchs close to (Vladimir) Putin, who use our city to launder money by buying houses or businesses. And what’s doubly heartbreaking about the homes they buy is that they sit empty for years. These are not houses, they are bricks of gold used to launder money.
“I think the government should seize them and before selling them – because it will take time – they should use them to house these Ukrainians who are fleeing Ukraine, to whom we will offer safe haven in London.
“It’s a form of poetic justice, but it’s also a good use of those many empty properties sitting across London just with dust piling up inside rather than being used to house people who have need accommodation.”
Squatters have taken over Oleg Deripaska’s London mansion, saying it “belongs to Ukrainian refugees”.
Asked about the action, the prime minister’s official spokesman said: ‘Squatting in residential buildings is illegal.’
However, he added: ‘But we are working to identify the appropriate use of seized assets while owners are subject to penalties.