Ronan Ferguson, 37, is classed as a UK settled person – but his Ukrainian wife Iryna can’t join him because she isn’t eligible for a visa
A newly-married couple have been forced apart due to the UK’s “deliberately difficult” visa process – despite Home Secretary Priti Patel saying she stands “shoulder to shoulder in solidarity with the Ukrainian people”.
Irish citizen Ronan Ferguson, 37, lives and works in London – but his Ukrainian wife Iryna can’t join him because she isn’t eligible for a visa.
The pair, who married in Ukraine in January, planned to live in London – where Ronan has to be for his job in IT – but Iryna’s application was canceled a day after Russia’s invasion on February 24.
She fled Ukraine, spending two days on a train without a toilet or food, with snacks being passed through the windows, arriving at the Polish border on February 27.
The pair are now living in hotels in Ronan’s native Dublin – but he needs to return to the UK for work.
Despite spending hundreds of pounds on fast-track services, the Home Office still hasn’t granted Iryna a UK visa.
Ronan said: “The UK Government had absolutely no contingency plans for the invasion and the more time goes on, the more we are feeling that the country doesn’t even want us there – despite the fact I am classed as a settled person in the UK, where I work.
“The contrast between the way Ukrainian refugees have been treated in Ireland, where they have been welcomed with open arms, and the way they have been treated in the UK, which is being presented as a hostile environment, is astonishing.
“It’s as if they’re making the whole process deliberately difficult.”
The Irish Government waived visa requirements for Ukrainians the day the Russians attacked and, in concert with other EU countries, is offering temporary protection for at least a year.
More than 6,000 Ukrainian refugees have now arrived in the Republic of Ireland – a country of just five million people compared to the UK’s 67 million.
That’s 20 times the number of refugees the UK has welcomed per capita.
A ‘welcome room’ has been set up at the new processing facility for Ukrainian refugees at Dublin Airport, where there is access to phone chargers and SIM cards. In a dedicated area, there are toys, baby food and nappies for the many children arriving into the country.
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Tour bus company Paddywagon Tours also prepared to send a fleet of its coaches full of supplies to the war-torn country before bringing back refugees to Ireland.
One of the hotels Ronan and Iryna stayed in had been fully-booked up by the Irish Government to house refugees.
Ronan added: “We have felt very privileged to be able to stay somewhere in Dublin, whereas many refugees do not have that option – so many people are going through horrific experiences and are getting no support from the UK Government.”
The Home Office said: “We are standing shoulder to shoulder with Ukrainians which is why we’ve made it easier for those with Ukrainian passports to come here. This is alongside changes to visas to ensure Ukrainians in the UK can stay here.”
The Government has also launched the Ukraine Family Scheme allows family members of British nationals, UK settled persons and certain others to come to or stay in the UK – which would make Iryna eligible for a visa as Ronan is a settled person.
But Ronan said the British Government has “given no clear information and is making the whole process as difficult and expensive as possible”.
George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.