Ukrainian refugees seeking to settle in the UK say they will face a host of hurdles in the process, including long lines at UK immigration centers, weeks spent paying for temporary housing and forms requiring them to place their trust in strangers with sensitive personal documents.
So far, the UK government says it has issued 20,000 visas to Ukrainian refugees in hopes of reuniting with family members through the Ukraine Family Scheme, which allows those fleeing Ukraine to apply for a special visa allowing them to live in the UK and work for up to three years. But there are still thousands of requests waiting to be processed.
While the UK government’s arrangements are “certainly more generous” than previous resettlement programmes, it remains a complicated procedure, said Laura Kyrke-Smith, executive director of the International Rescue Committee (IRC) in the UK.
“A much better system would be to waive visas altogether,” Kyrke-Smith told DailyExpertNews. “Every person has the right to request asylum under international law.”
Ukrainian refugees and their families who spoke to DailyExpertNews described the process as frustrating and difficult to understand, while others said they feared they would struggle to meet UK document requirements, such as having seen copies of their passports and birth certificates. their present circumstances – they have fled a war.
Victoria and Andriy, a Ukrainian-British couple who have lived in the UK for more than a decade, told DailyExpertNews the process to retrieve Victoria’s elderly parents – who had fled their hometown of Berdyansk – was complicated.
“I was their only source of information. There were no clear instructions,” Victoria told DailyExpertNews. Meanwhile, her husband’s family is still waiting in Poland.
A separate program aims to connect Ukrainians with sponsors in the UK who are willing to host refugees. But potential hosts say it’s full of bureaucracy. The fine print states that guest applicants must identify a refugee in order to sponsor themselves.
Host Elsa De Jager took to Facebook and hooked up with Yana, a 32-year-old teacher who hopes to get out of Ukraine with her 4-year-old.
The two are strangers, but they are required to share sensitive personal documents as part of the application process.
De Jager told DailyExpertNews she believes the British government has deliberately made the process difficult to deter Ukrainians from settling in the UK.
“There shouldn’t be this kind of red tape with people being bombed every day,” she said. “It’s a PR stunt… It’s beautiful on paper, but when you go through the process, it’s almost impossible to actually do it.”
The British government says Ukrainian refugees are welcome, and according to the Home Office, the UK visa application process has been “streamlined” to help refugees get through the process “as quickly as possible”.