‘Woeful’ 2,700 visas granted under new Ukrainian refugee sponsorship scheme

There have been 28,300 applications received under the Homes for Ukraine scheme, and 31,200 for the family route, the Home Office said.

30 March 2022

Just 2,700 visas have been granted to people wanting to come to the UK under the Homes for Ukraine scheme, despite applications reaching 28,300, latest figures show.

Campaigners called the numbers “woeful”, urging the Government to “cut the red tape” for refugees seeking sanctuary in Britain.

The scheme opened on March 14, with the aim of allowing individuals, charities, community groups and businesses to bring Ukrainians – including those with no family ties to the UK – to safety.

However, Britain retains a visa requirement on security grounds while other European countries have waived checks in response to the humanitarian crisis caused by the Russian invasion.

The total number of applications from Ukrainians wanting to come to the UK was 59,500 as of March 29, the Home Office said.

This includes 28,300 under the Homes for Ukraine scheme and 31,200 under the separate Ukraine Family Scheme, which allows Ukrainians to join relatives living in the UK.

There have been 25,500 visas issued altogether, including 2,700 under the sponsorship scheme and 22,800 under the family scheme.

Refugees minister, Lord Harrington, said progress was starting to be seen thanks to changes the Home Office made to “streamline” the visa process.

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Yvette Cooper has written to the Government demanding that more be done for Ukrainian refugees (PA)

However, he said “we need to do more and will be making further improvements to bring people to the UK as quickly as possible”.

“The response of the British public has been incredible, opening their hearts and homes to the people of Ukraine, and we must do everything we can to make the most of this extraordinary generosity,” he said.

“We are starting to see progress because of changes the Home Office made to streamline the visa process and put additional resources into the system.

“However, we need to do more and will be making further improvements to bring people to the UK as quickly as possible.

“I look forward to welcoming more families and ensuring they have the support they need when they arrive.”

Meanwhile, Labour is urging the Government to speed up the process of getting Ukrainian refugees to the UK.

In a joint letter to their ministerial counterparts Priti Patel and Michael Gove, shadow home secretary, Yvette Cooper, and shadow levelling up secretary, Lisa Nandy, decried what they called a “shameful scale of bureaucracy”, which they claimed is “preventing desperately vulnerable people from reaching sanctuary in the UK”.

They called for clarity on the length of time taken for visas to be issued and how long security checks are taking.

The Labour MPs wrote: “The result of unnecessary Home Office bureaucracy is that desperate Ukrainian families are being let down.

“While the response of the British public has been overwhelming, with more than 150,000 families signed up to open their homes, the system you have created is squandering that generosity and failing to deliver the support that our country rightly wants to provide.

“The Government has known for months about the potential invasion of Ukraine by Russia.

“It is therefore unacceptable that, more than a month on from the start of the conflict, there has been so little progress and there are so many people waiting in limbo before they can reach some security and support.”

Sonya Sceats, chief executive of the Freedom from Torture charity, described the sponsorship scheme numbers as “woeful”, and called on the Government to “cut the red tape”.

“In a month where people across the country signed up to welcome more refugees than the Government has in 10 years, these woeful numbers prove why visa-based schemes are an unsuitable gateway for refugees fleeing Ukraine to reach safety here in the UK,” she said.

“Increasing reports of horrendous sexual violence against Ukrainian women and girls make it all the more urgent for the Government to cut the red tape so that survivors can get here quickly and access services from specialist trauma services like Freedom from Torture.”

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