Homes for Ukraine branded 'embarrassing publicity stunt' by refugees at Polish border

18 March 2022, 22:13

Flo's parents are hoping to sponsor Sergei but after spending 5 hours on paperwork they branded the UK scheme 'embarrassing''
Flo's parents are hoping to sponsor Sergei (right) but after spending 5 hours on paperwork they branded the UK scheme 'embarrassing''. Picture: Alamy/LBC

By Megan Hinton

The UK's Homes for Ukraine scheme has been branded an "embarrassing publicity stunt" after refugee's have been forced to spend hours filling in forms with information they "just don't have" after fleeing a war torn country.

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LBC's Vicky Etchells has spent the day at the humanitarian centre in Poland where thousands of people are still desperately fleeing over the border.

One 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 Sergei but despite being in close contact with the UK sponsor, the Ukrainian refugee spent over five hours filling in forms and has 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.

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"How can I get closer to someone then literally it being my mother and father who I can call at any minute. I've got all their details. I know that all their details and I am sitting with the person trying to get across with my mum and dad over in the UK, not working, filling out all that information as I asked them. How could you get a closer link than that? And it's still taking us hours."

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.

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."

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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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Whilst some refugees spend hours combing over paperwork to entre the UK, other are now heading back to help fight for their country.

More than 3 million people have escaped Ukraine since Russian troops began their bombardment, but after seeing desperate scenes from their country, some citizens are making the dangerous decision to return home.

Today LBC spoke with Alyssa as she queued to board a train heading from Poland to Lviv.

Explaining why she was about to embark on the perilous journey, she said: "So two weeks ago I moved to Poland and I thought I am not needed here but I am still needed in Ukraine.

"I want to go back because I want to work I want to help our soldiers, I want to make our children sleep well without hearing bombs again."

She ended the interview with a desperate plea, asking the West to "please help us close the sky".