UK visa rule leaves refugees stranded in war-torn Ukraine, charities say | Ukraine

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Leading refugee charities have called on the UK government to scrap visa requirements for Ukrainian refugees, amid growing anger over the government’s slow progress in issuing documents to people fleeing a war zone.

Candidates for hosting Ukrainian refugees under the Homes for Ukraine scheme have expressed concern that some refugees are being forced to stay in the conflict zone while UK visas are processed.

A Tory councilor quit the party over the weekend after being shocked by the bureaucracy surrounding the UK visa system for Ukraine, which she said reflected the government’s ‘hostile’ and ‘xenophobic’ approach to refugees .

Samantha Flower applied to sponsor a 17-year-old Ukrainian boy to live with his family in Buxton, Derbyshire, but said she faced delays and bureaucracy. The child was forced to stay in Ukraine while the documents were being processed.

“If he doesn’t make it out alive, it’s because bureaucracy prevented him from doing so,” she said.

His unease was reflected in the statement by the heads of the Refugee Council, the British Red Cross, Save the Children and Oxfam who warned that the visa system was “causing great distress to already traumatized Ukrainians”.

“Those who want to come to the UK must navigate a complex web of bureaucratic paperwork to obtain visas, leaving them facing lengthy delays without any information on the status of their application,” association officials wrote. in a letter published on time Monday.

“The government must urgently review the use of visas and abandon them as an immediate short-term measure, as the EU has done, and seek to introduce a simplified emergency humanitarian visa process.”

Flower, a High Peak Borough Council councilor, has joined Britain’s Home for Ukraine scheme, where foreigners act as hosts, but has yet to be approved. Only 1,000 of the 25,000 completed applications have been approved so far.

The boy and his stepmother and father, both lawyers, fled their home in kyiv during the Russian invasion. They arranged for the teenager to travel to the UK after contacting Flower online, where the adviser had offered her a home. However, the boy only has a Ukrainian national passport and not the international passport required by the UK as part of its visa process. The boy’s family had to stay in Ukraine and wait for the right papers – a process they say could take weeks.

“They have to wait for the passport to be filled out,” Flower said. “They had a shell near their house five or six days ago. They don’t know from one day to the next what will happen.

She said the government’s complex visa system for Ukrainians reflected its ‘hostile’ approach to all refugees, adding: ‘We lean towards the far right and that’s not the party I’m going to. joined”.

More than 3.9 million refugees have left Ukraine in the past month, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, of whom more than 2.2 million have ended up in Poland. The Home Office has granted 21,600 visas to Ukrainians hoping to join relatives in Britain under the Ukraine Family scheme.

The Department for Leveling Up, which runs the parallel Homes for Ukraine scheme, for people who do not have family in the UK, has not yet released figures on the number of visas granted. However, charities hosting refugees say the number of people benefiting from the scheme so far is “minimal”.

Lauren Scott, director of accommodation charity Refugees at Home, said: ‘We have been told anecdotally that the delay is largely due to the onerous visa application process, which is frustrating for our hosts. and must be destructive to guests. This creates a huge bottleneck. So far, we only know of three sponsorship visas granted to potential guests, and all for one family.

An opinion poll published on Sunday by Savanta ComRes indicated that 54% of people in the UK support a no-visa policy and would like to allow an unlimited number of Ukrainians fleeing the Russian invasion to come to the UK.

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