Furious Brits waiting to host Ukrainian refugees say UK visa system ‘adding to torture’

Caring Brits offering their homes to Ukrainian refugees say the UK Government’s “broken” visa system is adding to the fleeing families “torture”.

The ‘Homes for Ukraine’ scheme has been blasted by UK ‘sponsors’ who are desperate to help the families left sobbing as bombs explode around them.

Others fear those waiting in camps in Germany and Poland are giving up “in despair” on their dream to reach their new friends in the UK.

This week the Refugees minister Lord Harrington came under fire during a recent LBC Radio phone-in show and admitted he was “embarrassed” at the slow visa process.

He confirmed the ‘family scheme’ – those with relatives in the UK – had received just under 33,000 applications and 24,400 had been given visas.

But admitted 200,000 British people “had offered their spare rooms or flats to refugees”.

She was one of the first people to sign up for the scheme last month



He said on the sponsorship scheme, which started on March 18th, they had received 32,000 applications and about 9,000 visas had been offered.

The checks, he said, should take “no longer than 48 hours” but admitted it is taking “a lot longer than that” saying it was a “complex process” involving security checks and criminal record checks of the host and the refugee.

Mental health nurse Lauren Corbishley, 43, from Dawlish, Devon, was one of the first to sign up for the scheme last month and has slammed Lord Harrington after waiting weeks with no news.

The NHS worker, who lives with husband Ian, a teacher, aged 39, and their five year old son Finley, was initially told it would take five days to sort out visas so decided to put their sponsored family up in a hotel in Poland.

But she is still funding their accommodation weeks later and having to use her credit card to foot the £1,500 bill.

Their sponsored family, Yuliia Meshchieriakova, 40, her partner Glib, 36, an IT worker and Maryna, their 17 year old daughter and their two Huskies, whose home was destroyed in the bombings, are starting to fear the move will never happen.

Lauren said: “These people are desperate and traumatized. The very fact that now they are being made to wait is just extending that trauma.

“She was in Khrkiv and left her 20 year old son to fight. She is so traumatized.

Yuliia Meshchieriakova with her boyfriend



The family now fear the move will never happen



“She goes from sheer despair and I can see she’s been on WhatsApp through the night so she’s not sleeping. She goes in waves. Ella she will be really positive and then she will crash.”

In her last message the Ukrainian mum said: ‘I can no longer spend your money I’m ashamed..And the truth is I really want to get to you but I think it’s impossible. I thought it would be fast.’

Lauren fears for the mental health of all refugees, adding: “They could end up severe symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder which if left untreated could lead to becoming actively suicidal or self-harming to try and cope with their overwhelming emotions, which at the moment are left unsupported.

“It’s absolutely crucial that the Government do something about these people who are stranded because we will see a huge impact in mental health services when they do come.

“The longer we delay the worse it’s going to be. Hosts are also becoming traumatized by this process.

“For me personally having anxiety symptoms which are leading me to have palpitations is really hard but I am equipped to deal with these but others aren’t and their symptoms could only get worse if the situation continues with the appalling lack of clarity over this broken Visa system.

Lauren said she’d been told volunteers in Poland are now warning refugees not to bother applying for the UK’s visa scheme, saying it is too difficult and the ‘UK don’t want you there’.”

BAFTA winning director, Will Brenton, who has worked on Coronation Street, branded the Government’s handling of the scheme as “shambolic and shameful.”

Will and his wife are waiting for a family of three, including a five month old baby, to join them in their home in Hertfordshire.

He said: “There are families hearing bombs land around them, held in this hellish limbo because the Government seems to be deliberately delaying and creating obstacles to entry, whilst claiming generosity in their PR releases.

“It is a form of torture for those in need of safety. And where is Priti Patel? Why does she not come out and defend this fiasco.

“The government shame us all. Let them in, get them to safety, then we can sort out the paperwork.”

Paul Aitchison and his partner Helene Kell


Andy Commins/Daily Mirror)

Paul Aitchison is also frustrated after offering a huge farmhouse in County Durham to 11 Ukrainian refugees and driving to Poland to collect them only to come back empty handed.

The generous home owner and his partner Helene Kell ended up spending two weeks overseas helping many refugees including the extended family of five women and six children aged from four to 41-years-old, they are hoping to have to live in their old home.

Helene, 50, told The Mirror: “What I saw over there will never ever leave me. I will always be grateful for what I have. People are treating the refugees as if they are homeless and nothing.”

Helene and Paul said the terror witnessed by the children is clear to see.

Paul explained: “We were walking around in Poland and a couple of helicopters went overhead and the little ones were panic stricken and ran to their mums.

When Helene pointed out a plane overhead, the youngsters told her: ‘We don’t like airplanes, they frighten us!’

While one of the youngest, a six year old, sat with his head in his hands all day, unable to smile and “traumatized” – not knowing who he would see his dad again.

Anna at a refugee center in Poland with the two teddies Helene gave her


Andy Commins/Daily Mirror)

Maxim after a six-hour wait trying to get a visa


Andy Commins/Daily Mirror)

They had fled Ukraine only with their most prized possessions but when they got to the station were told they could not get on the train with their suitcases Paul, 40, who works for the Nissan Motor manufacturing UK in Sunderland, was given time off, fuel and several vehicles for his trip to Poland by his bosses.

He said: “In terms of the Government…They are not doing enough at all.

“The UK visa officials based in a big fancy hotel I saw were using google translate instead of interpreters.

“In the hotel there’s a slotted wall you can see through. On one side you’ve got the visa team and hungry refugees and on the other, suited and booted business men eating three course meals. It’s a disgrace.

“These people need stability urgently. We are 100 per cent letting them down.”

Sabrina and Tony Edge, from Driffield, are now suffering from Covid and fear the stress and sleepless nights caused by the visa process could have led to their immune system collapsing.

They have decorated their spare rooms ready for mum Lillia Malona, ​​38, dad Vitalii, their 17-year-old daughter Victoria and her little sister Ilona, ​​six.

Ukrainian refugees have been facing delays to get their visas


Andy Commins/Daily Mirror)

English teacher, Lillia, said she was the ‘happiest mum in the world’ after Sabrina offered them a home.

But now that joy has turned to dismay as they wait for a ‘permission to travel’ letter from the Home Office.

Sabrina and Tony, former Londoners who moved up north with their three daughters – Emily, 19, Maddie, 16, and Kitty, 11, where they could live in a bigger home, have written to Priti Patel telling her of the relentless delays.

They told her they had sent 73 emails since March 5th to various Government departments and MPs, they have made 52 calls and been cut off five times.

They have also helped organize 15 people to join other friends across the UK but so far only one visa has been granted.

“There is no excuse, no accountability for these agencies and we are the tax payers,” Sabrina said.

“This whole system and process is a complete black hole.

“It is cruel as each day this drags on, we are left wondering if our Ukrainian family are safe, if they have food, if they are going to give up on the UK.”

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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