Ukraine families’ visas must be processed together, says peer offering home

The children of the family Baroness Finlay of Llandaff is helping received their visas days before their mother.

21 April 2022

A crossbench peer offering her home to a Ukrainian family has said the Homes for Ukraine scheme is “demoralising” for refugees and changes must be made to it so families are processed together.

Baroness Finlay of Llandaff is offering her Cardiff home to a family but waited over a month for all their visas to be cleared.

After applying for the scheme on the day it launched, March 18, the children received visas separately earlier this week but it was only on Thursday afternoon that their mother received hers.

“They haven’t given up and we haven’t given up and we’re communicating with them almost daily … but I could really understand if they feel completely demoralised,” Baroness Finlay told the PA news agency.

Russian invasion of Ukraine
A young girl from Ukraine holds her dog as she waits with her mother for a bus to refugee accommodation after they crossed the border point from Ukraine into Medyka, Poland (Victoria Jones/PA)

“It is absolutely essential refugees are processed in family groups. Some of us were calling for that from day one.”

Government figures show fewer than a third of Ukrainian refugees who have been issued with visas have arrived in the UK.

A total of 71,800 visas had been issued as of Wednesday under the Ukraine Family Scheme and the Homes for Ukraine Sponsorship Scheme, the Government said, but as of Monday, just 21,600 Ukrainians had arrived in the UK – according to figures from the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities and the Home Office.

On this discrepancy, Baroness Finlay said: “Emotionally, it is understandable if people have applied for visas and want to hold them almost like an insurance policy, but aren’t quite sure how it’s all going to pan out, hoping they might get back home.

“The other thing is, because the system has been so clunky and slow, people may have got used to where they are.

“If you’ve got traumatised children and they’re starting to play with some others nearby, you’d be a bit hesitant about breaking that up.

“They’re living with uncertainty on absolutely every front, so any crumb of certainty, such as just children forming relationships with other children, is something parents will cling on to.”

Baroness Finlay said refugees may also be facing travel issues and be put off by the UK’s “unfriendly” approach to immigration, including the Government’s new policy of sending some asylum seekers 4,000 miles to Rwanda.

“We’ve got this reputation of being unfriendly … and this latest policy involving Rwanda, I think, sullied the overall image,” she said.

“These are completely separate schemes, I know they are, but the overall message is not good.”

The father of the family Baroness Finlay is helping is a doctor who had worked with her husband, Professor Andrew Finlay, before the Russian invasion.

Baroness Finlay said he has remained in Kyiv to “serve his country”, but they have also submitted an application for him in the event he also leaves Ukraine due to injury or other reasons.

The family will live in the home with Baroness Finlay and her husband, who have bought an extra bed and fridge to accommodate the whole family, clearing kitchen cupboards so they can have space to cook their own meals.

They also installed another television and a radio which can be tuned to Ukrainian radio stations so that the refugees can have a link to their home country.

With two children of her own, who have left home, Baroness Finlay has washed some soft toys so that the younger child can have something soft to comfort them.

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