Desperate appeal for more people in Milton Keynes to take in Ukrainian refugees

A man on a mission to help Ukrainian refugees is making a desperate appeal for more people to come forward and offer homes for families fleeing the conflict.

By Olga Norford
Friday, 27th May 2022, 4:05 pm
Updated Friday, 27th May 2022, 5:05 pm

Humanitarian hero Derek Edwards, of Milton Keynes, has placed 49 Ukrainian refugees escaping the war-torn country along with three dogs, and a parrot.

Of those, 13 refugees are already living in the UK, five of whom are at Mr Edwards’ home in Willen. A further nine refugees will be travelling over to the UK in the next week, and he’s awaiting decisions from the Home Office for the remaining 27 refugees.

But Mr Edwards, 63, says he is currently struggling to find sponsors for Ukrainian refugees. He's exhausted all the resources available, including Ukraine Take Shelter and Opora, ICanHelpHost) and has been told there are zero sponsors available.

From left, Derek pictured with Anna and her mother Halyna, who are both living with Derek at his Willen home. Also pictured is Derek's wife Fancesca, and Norman, the dog.

Mr Edwards travelled over to the Poland/Ukraine border of Korczowa-Krakovets back in March to volunteer and he has essentially remained there since.

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He was one of the first volunteers on the ground, and he has been chiefly responsible for arranging transport for refugees, driving Ukrainians to the borders of other nations, arranging temporary housing in Poland before matching refugees with long-term sponsors in the UK.

He has also organised the processing of protracted visa applications.

Some of the Ukrainian refugees pictured with their pet dog at Mr Edwards' home in Willen

Mohammad Khaled, who has been helping Mr Edwards, said: “The main refugee centre near the border is where a ream of buses are arriving daily, with hundreds of refugees having stowed their worldly belongings into a suitcase or two.

“Notwithstanding the incredible efforts of the Polish government and volunteers from around the world, the centre is a cold, dispassionate place with rows upon rows of fold-up camping beds with minimal privacy, and is not conducive to the wellbeing of refugees who've been forced to leave their homes.

“Over the last couple of months, Derek has rented over 12 different homes near the border so refugees have more comfortable places to reside. He’s also provided the groceries and sustenance, and arranged flights and onward travel to the United Kingdom - all at his own cost.”

But Mohammad explained there’s only so much Mr Edwards can do and is appealing for people to come forward. He’s also helping to set up a Milton Keynes charity to streamline visa process for Ukrainians seeking refuge in the UK.