University of Sheffield hits back over 'empty flats' in Ukraine refugees row

University of Sheffield chiefs have hit back after being accused of leaving student flats empty rather than using them to house Ukraine refugees.

By Darren Burke
Thursday, 21st April 2022, 4:59 pm

The university has been accused of having hundreds of vacant rooms in recent years which critics say could be used to house those in need, including families fleeing the war in Ukraine.

But bosses have hit back at the claims by Minesh Parekh, Labour and Co-operative council candidate for Crookes and Crosspool in the forthcoming local elections, saying more than 200 rooms have already been registered with the Homes For Ukraine scheme.

Mr Parekh said: “Despite branding itself as an internationalist institution, and the Vice-Chancellor saying the University will do all it can to support refugees, the University of Sheffield has kept hundreds of rooms empty year-on-year.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

University of Sheffield bosses have hit back in the row.

“In recent years, thousands of people across the country have offered rooms in their homes to support refugees, whether from Ukraine, Afghanistan, Yemen, or Syria. It’s disgraceful that the University has hundreds of empty flats—as well as two for-profit hotels—that could have been used to house people and chooses not to.”

Dr Malcolm Butler, director of global engagement at the University of Sheffield, said: "The University of Sheffield has a dedicated group to coordinate support for refugees, asylum seekers and students and staff affected by the war in Ukraine.

"As part of this work, we have identified £1 million of funding to support new sanctuary scholarships, schemes for at-risk academics, hardship funding and accommodation for students fleeing conflict.

“We have already registered up to 220 available rooms with the Homes for Ukraine scheme. Our available rooms will be prioritised for new and existing students affected by war and oppression.“We are currently updating our website with further information about our work to support refugees and asylum seekers, but anyone who has questions can contact us via [email protected]

Mr Parekh said a recent Freedom of Information request revealed that the University had 202 empty student flats during the 2021/22 academic year, 486 during 2020/21, and over 800 in 2019/20.

Abdi-aziz Suleiman, former president of Sheffield Students’ Union and Co-Founder of #WeAreInternational, said: “Every empty University room at a time when there are people desperate for the safety and warmth of a room undermines our internationalist values and our status as a city of Sanctuary.”