Ukraine refugees are facing 'distress' over too much red tape

Ukraine refugees heading for sanctuary in Britain are facing ‘distress’ over too much red tape, charities warn

  • Oxfam, Save the Children and Red Cross call for changes to refugee scheme 
  • The homes for Ukraine visa programme is struggling with a 24,000 backlog  
  • 1,000 visas have been granted with 200,000 offering their homes to refugees

Britain’s bureaucratic Ukraine refugee scheme is causing ‘distress’ for evacuees and ‘frustration’ for thousands of British families trying to help, major charities warn today. 

Oxfam, Save the Children and the British Red Cross are among the organisations that have signed a letter calling on ministers to make urgent changes to the Homes for Ukraine visa programme. 

The Daily Mail revealed on Saturday that the scheme – which offers hosts a £350-a-month ‘thank you’ from the Government for taking in evacuees for a minimum of six months – was struggling with a 24,000 backlog. 

More than 25,000 completed applications have been submitted by UK hosts who have already matched themselves up with refugees in need of shelter. 

But only 1,000 visas have been granted. 

Overall, around 200,000 British families have offered to open their homes to refugees. 

Home Secretary Priti Patel, pictured, has insisted a visa scheme with vetting checks is essential for national security reasons

The charities’ open letter to Michael Gove, whose communities department is responsible for the scheme, said: ‘Those who want to come to the UK are having to navigate a complex web of bureaucratic paperwork to get visas leaving them facing protracted delays. While it is welcome that our country is offering sanctuary, the visa process is causing great distress to already traumatised Ukrainians and increasing frustration to tens of thousands of Britons who want to welcome them into their homes.’

Home Secretary Priti Patel has insisted a visa scheme with vetting checks is essential for national security reasons.

Although the vast majority of people feeling the invasion are women and children, Miss Patel has said it was ‘naive and misguided’ to think Russian agents could not be among them. 

However the letter, which is due to be delivered today and was also signed by the Refugee Council and the International Rescue Committee, called for the process to be simplified. 

Refugees wait for the bus before continuing the journey after they crossed the Ukrainian-Polish border in Medyka on March 19

‘The Government must review the use of visas and waive them as an immediate short-term measure, as has been done by the EU, and look to introduce a simplified emergency humanitarian visa process,’ it claimed.

‘Now is not the time to put paperwork and bureaucracy before the needs of people who have had their lives shattered by war or to weaken our commitment to refugee protection.’ 

A poll shows that more than half of UK voters think the Government should ditch visa requirements and allow unlimited numbers of Ukrainian refugees to come here. 

The survey, conducted by Savanta ComRes for The Independent found that 54 per cent said the policy of insisting on visas should be dropped, with just 21 per cent backing the current set-up. 

Boris Johnson’s new refugees minister Lord Harrington, pictured, told MPs earlier this month that he expected ‘thousands’ of evacuees would have arrived by now under Homes for Ukraine

Boris Johnson’s new refugees minister Lord Harrington told MPs earlier this month that he expected ‘thousands’ of evacuees would have arrived by now under Homes for Ukraine. 

However, just a small number are believed to have made it to Britain so far. 

No official figures have yet been published but a government source admitted last week that progress ‘has been slower than we would have liked’.

It came as experts warned the scheme risked becoming a ‘Tinder for sex traffickers’ as evidence emerged that UK-based criminals were targeting Ukrainian evacuees.

Those who are approved as UK hosts by the Government need to identify which Ukrainians they want to house and some are turning to social media to find them.

‘We are aware of people with illegal motives who are advertising [their home] on social media,’ the charity Refugee Action told The Observer. 

‘We are concerned that it risks being a Tinder for sex traffickers.’ 

It said one UK resident offered accommodation only to an orphan, while another requested to house a single woman who could help with their childcare.

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