UK approves less than 10% of Homes for Ukraine applications as 2,700 visas granted

30 March 2022, 11:08 | Updated: 30 March 2022, 11:14

UK grants 2,700 refugees visas under Homes for Ukraine scheme
UK grants 2,700 refugees visas under Homes for Ukraine scheme. Picture: Alamy

By Megan Hinton

The UK Government has approved less than 10 per cent of visa applications made under the Homes for Ukraine sponsorship scheme so far.

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The latest figures released by the Home Office today show there have been 28,300 visa applications received under the Homes for Ukraine scheme, and a further 31,200 under the Ukraine Family Scheme as of March 29.

According to official figures, the total number of visas issued is at 25,500 - including 2,700 under the sponsorship scheme and 22,800 under the family scheme.

Families minister Will Quince admitted the number was "relatively low" but said the Government is working to process further applications.

More than 150,000 British families are believed to have registered their interest in housing desperate Ukrainians but less than 10 per cent of applications have been approved.

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Refugees waiting in queue for UK visa centre surprised at number of visas given

The latest figures come after the UN refugee agency said more than four million people have now fled Ukraine following Russia's invasion, a new milestone in the largest refugee crisis in Europe since the Second World War.

The UN High Commissioner posted on a website that tracks refugee flows around the world to say 4.01 million have now left Ukraine.

Of those, 2.3 million have entered Poland.

Aid workers say the flow has eased in recent days as many people await developments in the war, which started when Russia invaded its neighbour on February 24.

A further estimated 6.5 million people have been displaced from their homes within the country.

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Home Secretary's new online visa application system for Ukrainian refugees.

Independent crossbencher Baroness Finlay of LLandaff, hit out at the Government's "lack of information" around the scheme.

Adding: "We have an ethical obligation of non-abandonment having given a commitment to stand with Ukraine and to offer sanctuary.

"Does the Government recognise that the visa process is causing great distress to already traumatised Ukrainians who have experienced cumulative losses, pervasive existential terror and mass bereavements, and are now increasingly at risk?"

One refugee and British volunteer told LBC that UK's Homes for Ukraine scheme was an "embarrassing publicity stunt" after they were forced to spend hours filling in forms with information they "just don't have" after fleeing a war torn country.

Volunteer Brit Flo, from Gloucester, who has been helping refugee Sergei to fill in forms, described the new scheme as "bureaucratic, laborious and finickity" after slamming the UK for their lack of presence at the border.

Flo's parents are hoping to sponsor Ukrainian refugee Sergei but despite being in close contact with the UK sponsor, they spent over five hours filling in forms and had to pay to get documents translated into English.

Speaking to LBC Flo said: "So we’ve been here for five hours. These people are traumatised, Segei comes from Kyiv, which is being heavily bombed.

"And the last thing they need right now is like a heavily bureaucratic, laborious, finickity process like the one that we're having to go through right now.

Explaining the process Flo said the UK government wanted documents scanned and sent over including passports, bank statements and even mortgage statements, something which refugee's may not have thought to bring when fleeing Russian bombardment.

The process includes having to pay to get the important Ukrainian documents translated into English after spending time scanning them into a specialised website.

Read more: Russia's promise to wind down assaults on Kyiv could be 'deception', US warns

Read more: Russia says it will cut back operations near Ukrainian capital

Refugee Action: System for Ukrainian refugees 'really disappointing'

Flo continued: "It's too big a stretch really to ask someone who's had to flee their town, 'oh actually, we want all of your mortgage documents and all of your paperwork and we actually now want it in English rather than Ukrainian'.

"All the other countries here are just sending hundreds of people off every few hours on the buses. And we're just literally sat here and it's taking one day to even go halfway through with Sergei."

Speaking about his frustration with the scheme Sergei told LBC he worries about families filling in the form when the refugee centre has a turn around of just 15 hours.

"If you have let’s say a wife, husband, two kids, you [would] have to spend a couple days I think to fill all these forms, one by one," he said.

Expressing her frustration at the Government scheme, Flo continued: "It almost just feels like some sort of publicity stunt that they've said this.

"It even says on the gov.uk website, the UK is known as the most one of the most open, welcoming countries.

"And there’s literally no one here, like unless they’re hiding in an office and they haven't come out for a week, we've been walking up and down these corridors all week and there's no UK presence here at all.

"And it feels embarrassing right now because people are queuing up over there and going to all the different countries and the UK one is just sat there just kind of just looking around like how are we supposed to how is this pulled this off?"

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