Homes for Ukraine: Family shares frustration as visa delays lead to refugees being stuck in war-torn country

The Home Office has said changes will be made to the Homes for Ukraine scheme amid concerns about visas being delayed for refugees.

Speaking in the House of Commons yesterday Hull Labour MP Dame Diana Johnson, chairwoman of the Home Affairs Select Committee, asked Home Secretary Priti Patel to expandeligibility under the scheme to children travelling with grandparents and older siblings after concerns were expressed that young people were finding it hard to obtain visas.

Ms Patel replied: “We are absolutely looking at this, and there is a lot of work taking place across not just the Home Office but with the Refugee Minister and also the Department for Local Communities on the safeguarding aspect.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

“We are going to make changes.”

Emma Collins, 51, from Tadcaster, wants to open her home up to Tetiana Fishchuk (left) and her son Zakhar (right) who are currently living in temporary accommodation having lost their home during the conflict.

It comes as one North Yorkshire family said they have been waiting over a month from first applying to host a Ukrainian woman and her son who have been displaced from Bucha without an update on their application.

Solicitor Emma Collins, 51, from Tadcaster, wants to open her home up to Tetiana Fishchuk and her son Zakhar, who are currently living in temporary accommodation having lost their home during the conflict.

Ms Collins said: “There’s no rhyme or reason as to why it’s taking longer. They both have biometric passports and we were able to update all their details and proof of residence – it wasn’t as if they had no documentation.

“When you phone the Home Office, they say they’re taking all the applications in date order. But I’ve made contact with a family in Shadwell whose whole process took two weeks.”

Ms Fishchuk said: “The decision to leave the country you love and to be separated with the family is the hardest in my life. Thus I have to think about my son, his future.

“As soon as we applied we expected the transparent procedure with clear time rules. But now long delays make us feel frustrated and unable us to plan our lives further.”

The Home Office has said the visas should be confirmed this week.

The Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, which manages the Homes for Ukraine scheme, defended its visa processing amid concerns about the speed that refugees are able to reach the UK.

A spokesperson said: “More than 77,200 Ukrainians have arrived in the UK since Putin’s invasion, showing the steps we have taken to speed up the process are working.

“All applications from families are normally processed together, but cases differ in complexity and it is vital that robust safeguarding processes are in place to protect children from trafficking and other risks.

“We continue to make improvements so we can speed up the process even further.”

It comes as MPs heard yesterday that a Ukrainian refugee mother and toddler were queuing at a food bank after being “left without anything” following their arrival in the UK.

Ms Patel described the case as “very, very serious” and pledged to make further enquiries after it was raised in the House of Commons.

Labour MP Ellie Reeves (Lewisham West and Penge) said: “On Friday when I visited my local food bank, I met a young woman who had fled Ukraine with her two-year-old son.

“While she is waiting for her Universal Credit payments to come through, she’s been left without anything and she was queuing to get food and nappies.

“How can this be right when they have fled the horror of war?

Ms Patel replied: “(She) has raised a very, very serious case, but not only that, some of the challenges that people are facing. Now she’s asked me directly what will I do with DWP, in fact there’s a cross-government task force on this, bringing all Government departments together.”