Tory ministers face furious calls to go faster after slow progress in awarded visas to Ukrainians fleeing Russia’s war – despite hundreds of thousands of Brits being willing to host them
Image: AFP via Getty Images)
Nine out of 10 refugees handed visas under the Homes for Ukraine scheme have still not arrived in the UK, it emerged today.
As of last Friday, official figures showed 32,200 people have applied for the visas and 4,700 have been granted.
But only 500 of those granted Homes for Ukraine visas so far have come to the UK, according to The Times.
The figure represents less than 2% of those who have applied to come to Britain under the programme.
Many more have not yet completed the lengthy application form, which reportedly asks people: “Are you a war criminal?”.
It is now more than two weeks since the scheme formally opened, with around 200,000 Brits volunteering to host as refugee.
Government ministers face criticism for leaving it to charities and community groups to match refugees to their hosts.
Cabinet Minister Simon Hart admitted there was “frustration” that more Ukrainian refugees have not yet reached the UK.
But he added: “I think the idea that there’s a degree of complacency is unfair. That’s not to say we couldn’t go further and faster, and I’m convinced of that as well.”
Latest figures from Friday show that 65,000 applications have been received under the two UK visa schemes for Ukrainians.
Some 32,800 applications have been with 24,400 issued under the family scheme, for people with family members in Britain.
And 32,200 have been received and 4,700 issued through the sponsorship scheme, also known as Homes for Ukraine.
Downing Street did not give a figure for the number of visa applicants who’d arrived successfully in the UK.
It comes after minister refugees Lord Harrington promised applications would be processed within 48 hours.
Asked if he knew when that target will be “realistic”, Boris Johnson’s spokesman replied: “I don’t.
“They’re working at speed to streamline the process and improve the process.”
Brexit opportunities minister Jacob Rees-Mogg – who said he was “considering” taking in a refugee – defended the approach.
He was told by a caller on LBC Radio: “Eighteen days, we have been waiting since we applied, and the whole thing is plagued with inefficiency.
“So my question to you, sir, is it that this government is completely inefficient? Or is it that it’s simply xenophobic?”
The Cabinet minister said: “No, neither of those. That as I understand it, 25,000 visas have so far been issued.”
Told the number who’d arrived here was “shockingly low” he replied: “25,000 visas have been issued.”
He went on: “Issuing 25,000 visas is a good start. There is more to be done. Of course, there’s more to be done.”
George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.