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No 10 seeks Chelsea FC mansions and hotel as options to house refugees

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The government is exploring whether Ukrainian refugees could be housed in the mansions of sanctioned Russian oligarchs, Downing Street said.

Ministers have faced calls for the large houses of those affected by the measures imposed by the UK government to become homes for those fleeing the war in Ukraine.

On Monday, Downing Street confirmed it was examining whether the properties could be used, although new legislation is believed to be required.

Squatters occupying a mansion belonging to Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska in Belgrave Square, central London. (Jonathan Brady/PA)

It was also suggested that the Chelsea Football Club hotel could be used after owner Roman Abramovich was added to the Government blacklist.

When asked about the mansions, the Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “Certainly that is something we are looking at.

“I think in the first instance the two (visa) routes that we have are how we expect people to stay in the UK, whether it’s through family or through this sponsorship route.”

Previously, Sajid Javid said that although the mansions should not be the “first place” considered, work was being done to see if they can be used.

“I think there will be some legal hurdles to trying to do that, but it’s okay for (Michael Gove) to look broadly to see how we can house more and more Ukrainian refugees.”

Downing Street also did not rule out the Chelsea Football Club hotel being used to house Ukrainian refugees.

File photo of Roman Abramovich

File photo dated 19-12-2015 of Chelsea FC owner Roman Abramovich. (Adam Davy/PA)

The official spokesman for the Prime Minister said: “We would certainly like to see where it is possible (used), we are open to all options.

“There are some challenges around the special license that has been created in relation to sanctions.”

But “in general, the vast majority of people” coming from Ukraine would be accommodated under the two routes already announced.

London Mayor Sadiq Khan said it would be a form of “poetic justice” to reuse the mansions.

He told Times Radio: “I, for some time, with others, have been complaining about those Russian oligarchs close to (Vladimir) Putin, using our city to launder money by buying houses or businesses. And what’s doubly heartbreaking about the houses they buy is that they sit empty for years. They are not houses, they are gold bricks used to launder money.

Sadiq Khan visits Ulster

Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan. (Liam McBurney/PA)

“I think the government should seize them, and before they sell them, because they will take some time, they should use them to house Ukrainians fleeing from Ukraine, who we will offer a safe haven in London.

“It’s a form of poetic justice, but it’s also a good use of these many, many vacant properties that are sitting in London just dusty inside rather than being used to house people in need of a home.”

Squatters have seized Oleg Deripaska’s London mansion, declaring it “belongs to Ukrainian refugees.”

When 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 proper use of the seized properties while the owners are subject to sanctions.”


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