'I've been there': Matt Hancock defends under-fire Home Office over Ukraine refugee visas

8 March 2022, 00:40

By Emma Soteriou

Matt Hancock has defended the Home Office for the way it has dealt with the Ukrainian refugee crisis, with only 300 British visas having been issued as of Monday evening.

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Speaking to LBC's Iain Dale, Mr Hancock said: "When you're in a crisis of this magnitude, that's happened at this speed, it's incredibly hard to work as fast as the situation demands.

"I know that the visa application centres in Poland are now up and running and open and the Home Office will give an update on the number of visas that have been processed."

He went on to say: "I have spoken to the Home Secretary about this and she is adamant and on it in terms of making this happen as quickly as possible.

"In crises, things move very fast and to get the system up and running at a massive scale on such short notice does take time.

"I understand everyone's frustration but I've also been there when you have to move super fast and it takes a few days to sort it out."

The Tory MP was Health Secretary when the Covid-19 pandemic began in 2019.

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It comes after the Home Office said on Sunday that only "around 50" visas had been issued under the Ukraine Family Scheme.

A Home Office update on Monday evening revealed that 300 British visas had been issued to Ukrainian refugees so far.

In response to the latest figures, Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper tweeted: "Home Office confirms tonight that only 300 Family Scheme Visas have been issued even tho thousands are trying to reach family.

"That's shockingly low & painfully slow.

"Just 250 since yesterday. At this rate it would be weeks before many families reunite. Urgent action needed."

The Government also confirmed that over 17,000 applications had been started, with the number of visas issued expected to increase quickly in coming due to a "surge" in staff and appointments.