Maryna and teenage daughter Anna left Kyiv with nothing after Vladimir Putin’s forces invaded, spending two days at a station in the freezing cold before they could board a train taking them to freedom
Image: Clive Smith)
A Brit has shelled out more than £3,000 to help a traumatized mum and daughter who fled Ukraine and are stuck in a hotel in Amsterdam despite a home being ready for them in the UK – because the 14-year-old is yet to get her visa.
Maryna and teenage daughter Anna left Kyiv with nothing after Vladimir Putin’s forces invaded, spending two days at a station in the freezing cold before they could board a train taking them to freedom.
But although Maryna, a concert pianist, now has a visa, Anna is still waiting more than three weeks after applying, their UK sponsor said.
Clive Smith is ready to welcome them to his house in Northumberland and has shelled out more than £3,000 to put the mum and daughter up in a hotel in Amsterdam while the paperwork is processed.
Charities supporting those fleeing Putin’s war say cases like this are common, with sponsors angry that those they are trying to support are being left in limbo.
Clive told The Mirror: “It’s just beyond the pale.
“It’s a real cock-up. The daughter is traumatized, she’s spending all her time in her room, she believes she’s responsible for the delay.
“She doesn’t understand that it’s not her fault. It’s an additional stress bearing in mind what they’ve been through, all it’s doing is creating unnecessary angst.
“They can see the ferries from their hotel.”
Maryna and Anna originally lived in the Donbas region of Ukraine, Clive said, but fled to Kyiv in 2014 when pro-Russian troops launched an invasion.
Andy Commins/Daily Mirror)
On March 1 this year, days after Putin’s latest onslaught began, they traveled nearly 10 miles in the hope of catching a train to safety.
Six weeks later they remain in limbo, and Clive said he does know when he will be able to welcome them.
He said he is footing the bill for their stay because he feels responsible for their welfare – but faces another £1,000 bill if they have to remain in Amsterdam over the weekend.
“I could leave it to a charity and they could stay in a hall on a mattress, but I think most hosts will say they wouldn’t expect people to live in conditions they wouldn’t stay in themselves,” he said.
Ferry company DFDS has kindly said it will transport the mum and daughter free of charge, but Clive said he has repeatedly had to cancel their bookings due to visa delays.
Organizations supporting refugees trying to get to the UK have hit out at the visa system.
Enver Solomon, chief executive of the Refugee Council, said: “It’s clear that the visa schemes which were supposedly designed to ensure the safety of Ukrainians fleeing war and bloodshed are unfit for purpose.
“Asking Ukrainian families, who are scared, exhausted, and traumatized to fill out a long, and complex visa application is unacceptable and totally out of touch with the terrifying situation they find themselves in.”
Mr Solomon continued: “The British public stepped forward in their tens of thousands to welcome Ukrainians into their homes, yet we are hearing they have been left feeling angry and frustrated that their gesture of support has been lost into a web of bureaucracy and chaos.
“So many of whom are digging into their own pockets to support Ukrainian families with accommodation at borders, as they await news from the UK Government.
Andy Commins/Daily Mirror)
“The Government must urgently review the use of visas and waive them as an immediate short-term measure, as has been done by the EU, and then look to introduce a simplified emergency humanitarian visa process to ensure that we can welcome those families who desperately seek safety in the UK.”
Figures released last week showed just 12,000 people had arrived in the UK from Ukraine under schemes to help refugees.
A government spokesperson said: “The Home Office has made changes to visa processing – the application form has been streamlined, Ukrainian passport holders can now apply online and do their biometrics checks once in the UK, and greater resource has gone into the system.”