Asylum delays force Ukraine refugees to ‘return to war zone out of desperation’

British businessman Andrew Murray has criticised the Home Office for making it ‘deliberately difficult’ for people fleeing the war.

23 March 2022

Ukrainian families are “returning to the war zone out of desperation” due to asylum delays, a British businessman who flew out to help those fleeing the Russian invasion has said.

Andrew Murray, who works in technology and travelled from north-east Scotland to Lviv in western Ukraine, criticised the UK Government for making its asylum process “deliberately difficult”.

The 56-year-old said he queued to get into Ukraine at the Polish border alongside women and children who were returning to the war-torn country after struggling to find refuge abroad.

Aid workers at the Ukrainian/Polish border
Andrew Murray met refugee agencies at the border who were unaware of the UK Government’s Homes for Ukraine scheme (Andrew Murray/PA)

“I’ve come out armed with cash ready to pay for flights for people to come back to the UK but I’m struggling to find people who are prepared to go through the bureaucracy of filling an online visa application etc,” Mr Murray told the PA news agency.

“My real concern is that unless the British Government addresses this visa issue quickly then we’re going to have people crossing back from safety into a war zone because they can’t stomach it any more.

“I was in a queue with hundreds of women and children refugees last night at the border to get back into Ukraine.

“When I spoke to them, they said they’ve been in Poland for a couple of weeks but there doesn’t seem to be any movement and living in a hostel is no kind of life.”

Mr Murray said the situation at the Ukrainian border with Poland is “chaos” and said he has not seen any representatives from the UK embassy or the British government.

He added that he has met refugee agencies at the border who are unaware of the UK Government’s Homes for Ukraine scheme.

“I had information sheets printed up and translated into Ukrainian and left them at the border before I crossed over,” he said.

“I’ve met with Lviv city council officials involved in coordinating refugee agencies across the city and they too were unaware of the UK’s Homes for Ukraine scheme.

“One of the first questions they asked was if they need visas, and of course the answer is yes, so there’s quite a stumbling block here and we are at a bit of a stalemate.

“I know this is not the good news story that people want to hear but that’s the reality on the ground, and it’s very frustrating to watch this unfold.”

Mr Murray is heading back to the UK on Thursday to “see what work I can do from there” but said he is concerned about the “refugee crisis”.

“Poland has done a great deal to help (the refugees) but they are at their capacity now, whereas in the UK we’ve still got the capacity – but the Home Office has created this great big barrier for everyone,” he added.

A spokesperson for the Home Office said: “We are moving as quickly as possible to ensure that those fleeing horrific persecution in Ukraine can find safety in the UK, setting up both the Ukraine Family scheme and now the Homes for Ukraine scheme which allows those without family connections to come here.

“We have streamlined the visa application process so valid passport holders no longer have to attend in-person appointments before arriving and made changes to the forms people have to fill out in order to help people through the process as quickly as possible.”

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