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Priti Patel could face legal action over delays to Ukraine refugee visa scheme
3 May 2022, 06:53
Would-be sponsors under the Homes for Ukraine visa scheme are threatening the Government with legal action on behalf of hundreds of Ukrainian refugees who have spent weeks waiting to come to the UK.
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A class action lawsuit is being prepared over "inordinate and unreasonable delays" in processing hundreds of visa applications made in March.
Figures shared with the PA News Agency last week, compiled by would-be hosts, show there were at least 800 Ukrainian refugees still waiting for visas after applying within the first two weeks of the scheme opening.
The groups behind the action, Vigil 4 Visas and Taking Action Over the Homes for Ukraine Visa Delays, say the delays have put people in Ukraine and border countries at risk, and heaped "considerable pressure and strain" on UK hosts.
Lawyers for the groups are planning to send a pre-action protocol letter to the Home Office this week.
Katherine Klinger, who has helped organise vigils outside the Home Office over the past week, said hosts reported "utter despair, shame and sense of responsibility" over the delays.
"Perhaps the most striking thing I've noticed is the utter despair, shame and sense of responsibility so many hosts report," she said.
"Hosts are in tears sometimes when they report to us what has happened in the past six weeks - dozens of emails, phone calls, letters, trips to the Home Office, MPs' involvement etc - it's very humbling."
The groups are due to launch an online Crowdfunder on Tuesday morning to raise up to £15,000 to help pay for the legal costs.
The legal letter will highlight ten cases of Ukrainians who are still waiting for their visas after applying during the days after the Homes for Ukraine scheme first opened on March 18.
These include the case of a Ukrainian mother and her daughter, aged under 10, who applied for their visas around five weeks ago.
The mother received her visa on April 18 but the little girl is still waiting.
They are not alone - there are multiple similar cases where family members, usually with young children, are waiting for longer than their relatives for permission to travel.
The legal action is being prepared by Amanda Jones, an immigration and public law barrister, and follows a previous successful individual challenge, the group said.
They said the judicial review would be brought on the grounds that the Home Office has a policy of delaying the March applications, and deciding later applications instead; or that the system is so chaotic and unstable that it is unreasonable.
A Government spokesperson said: "In response to Putin's barbaric invasion we launched one of the fastest and biggest visa schemes in UK history.
"Over 86,000 visas have been issued so Ukrainians can live and work in the UK.
"The changes the Home Office has made to streamline the visa system, including simplifying the forms and boosting staff numbers, are working and we are now processing visas as quickly as they come in - enabling thousands more Ukrainians to come through our uncapped routes."