Nearly 1,000 Ukrainian families who have applied for visas under the UK government’s Homes for Ukraine program are still waiting for applications to be processed more than a month after submitting them.
A potential hostess, Lauren Corbishley, who founded a group protesting the delays, said the failure to issue visas to some of those who applied at the start of the scheme was “torture” for the families. She called on the government to launch a public inquiry into what was wrong.
A group of potential hosts demonstrated outside Parliament on Monday and met MPs including Theresa May and Steve Baker. They presented MPs with a record of 986 cases where visas have been applied for but not yet granted. Of these, 866 applied in the first two weeks of the program, which opened on March 18.
The government did not respond to claims by British hosts and Ukrainian families that visa applications submitted at the start of the scheme had gone astray, pointing instead that the Home Office was now processing thousands of cases per day.
Two of the protesters in parliament, Debbie and Trevor Farnfield, helped the family they hope to sponsor apply for visas on March 24. The family fled Ukraine to Poland and are sleeping on mattresses in a gym outside Warsaw. The parents and two children were granted visas, but not a third sibling, meaning the whole family could not travel to the UK. The Farnfields held up photos of the family at the protest in Westminster.
“We wanted to help Ukrainian refugees because we have a family-sized house, but our whole family no longer lives there,” said Debbie Farnfield. “We couldn’t live with our conscience if we didn’t help.”
They and the family they want to support are frustrated by the delays. “The visa system has become a national embarrassment,” said Trevor Farnfield.
Wheelchair user Jo Wright tries to accommodate Ukrainian Paralympic athlete Svitlana Tryfonova and her two children. Wright has an accessible home and wanted a disabled Ukrainian to benefit from it.
“The family lives in a three-story building with no elevator, so Svitlana’s sons carried her up the stairs,” Wright said. “We booked them on a flight to the UK today but we are still waiting for visas so we had to cancel the flight.”
Visas for Tryfonova and her eldest son have been processed but the family is still waiting for a visa for the younger son.
A group called Vigil for Visas is calling on the government to simplify the visa process, enable real-time tracking of applications and end delays they say could prove deadly for people trapped in a war zone. .
Corbishley’s group, Protest Over Missing Visa Applications 18-25 March 2022, is another highlighting the problems many face obtaining UK visas.
A government spokesperson said: “Thanks to the generosity of the public who offered their homes to Ukrainians fleeing the war and thanks to the Ukrainian family program, more than 71,800 visas were granted and 21,600 Ukrainians arrived safely. The Home Office now processes thousands of visas a day – this shows that the changes made to streamline the service are working and we will continue to build on this success to speed up the process even further.