UK Government ‘being unfair’ to Ukrainians waiting for visa sponsorship scheme

Roksolana Mokhnenko fled Kyiv with her brother, mother, husband and their cat.

10 March 2022

A refugee who fled Ukraine and is trying to reach the UK with her family has said the Government is being “unfair” to those waiting for the visa sponsorship scheme to open.

Roksolana Mokhnenko, 22, fled Kyiv with her brother, mother, husband and their cat, taking a series of trains through Poland, Germany, Belgium and France.

They initially travelled to Calais in northern France, but were told at the port they could not get a visa because they do not have family members in the UK.

The refugee processing centre in Calais
The refugee processing centre in Calais (Aaron Chown/PA)

After three days in a hotel, she said they were then told they would be taken to Lille where it would be “easier” to apply.

The current visa route is restricted to family members of people settled in the UK.

Another promised route, allowing UK individuals and companies to sponsor Ukrainians to come to the country, has yet to be established.

Mrs Mokhnenko, who was taken to a small hotel a 20-minute drive from Lille on Wednesday, said she is waiting for information about how to apply.

Asked what she would like to say to the UK Government, Mrs Mokhnenko told the PA news agency: “It’s unfair that you act like that to people, because they already went through something very, very scary, and they don’t want to have any problems.

“And now you’re making a huge problem of nothing.”

(PA Graphics)

The 22-year-old, who was studying to be an interpreter, said she eventually wants to return to Ukraine, but added: “I think it will be impossible for the next few years because the country has to build everything again.”

Clare Moseley, from the charity Care4Calais, is working with volunteers to support families in the hotel.

She said there is “a great deal of uncertainty” and confusion which is proving very difficult for people who are already exhausted.

Some refugees who were moved from Calais to Lille have now been told they need to make their own way to Paris; others have been told their visa applications will be processed at a centre in Arras, not Lille.

Others without family in the UK are waiting for news of the sponsorship scheme but are not sure how long they will be accommodated for and are running out of money.

Ms Moseley said: “We want to help them, but at the moment I think all we can do is kind of reassure them and tell them that people in the UK do care about them, that we want them, that we want to help them and we’re just really sorry that it’s a bit of a mess at the moment and they’re not feeling very welcomed.

“It’s really difficult for them. I mean, they’ve had a really difficult time, the last couple of weeks have probably been the most traumatic couple of weeks in their life.

“They’re exhausted, some of them are starting to run out of money, it’s really frightening to be in a foreign country especially if you can’t speak the language, to be running out of money, to not know where you’re going to stay, to not know what the future holds for you, and then to not even get any reassurance that you’re actually wanted.

“It’s really difficult for their families from the UK.

“If you can imagine, if you’ve got your own house, maybe you’ve worked really hard to pay the mortgage on that house, and you want to be able to shelter your own family in your house, and you’re being stopped by red tape from doing that. It’s really difficult.”

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