The head of the British Red Cross has criticized the “long, complex” application process for Ukrainian refugees seeking sanctuary in the UK and has called for the removal of visa requirements.
Mike Adamson, the charity’s chief executive, said only a “small trickle” of refugees are reaching the UK and that it should be made “much easier to come here”.
“It will remain a slow process with the current visa arrangements in place and it’s only if we remove those that we’ll actually start to see a steady flow,” he told BBC Breakfast.
“The whole of Europe and many other countries have waived their visa requirements.
“Most Ukrainians have biometric passports so we can do checks on them when they get here, we can find out who they are.
“And if we set up really good welcome centers and hubs, as the Government has actually promised, then we can look after them there, go through the matching processes, check out all the safety and security requirements.
“But the key thing is we get far more people here and then Britain would be playing its part at scale alongside our partners across Europe and of course showing solidarity and practical support to the people of Ukraine in this terrible situation.”
A village in Oxfordshire that has prepared homes for 45 refugees fleeing the Russian invasion of Ukraine has only seen one Ukrainian family arrive so far.
Polly Vacher, 78, who is co-ordinating the project, said would-be hosts in the village of North Moreton have been ready to welcome refugees for more than three weeks.
“The houses have been ready and support network is there,” she told BBC Breakfast.
“Our village who are waiting already with lots of support can’t get the refugees because the visas don’t come through and if you think about it, these people, they’ve been through the most terrible situation.”
Ms Vacher also criticized the “very lengthy process” of filling in visa application forms, saying it took lawyers two hours to complete for one family.
“These lawyers have put in 150 applications, and only 10% have actually received their visas,” she added.
“And after they put in the applications they got a message from the Home Office to say they’d lost some of the attachments, which are things like passports and that sort of thing, and therefore they had to resubmit the application, which meant they went to the bottom of the list.”
The Home Secretary on Friday apologized “with frustration” after coming under fire over “delays” in the time it is taking for Ukrainian refugees to arrive in the UK.
But Priti Patel denied visa requirements and checks are slowing down the process and causing delays, insisting the UK will “absolutely see changes in numbers” as work continues.
Around 12,000 people had arrived in the UK under Ukraine visa schemes as of Tuesday, according to Home Office figures.
Some 10,800 people had arrived under the Ukraine family scheme but only 1,200 had made it to the UK as part of the Homes for Ukraine sponsorship scheme, provisional data published on the department’s website shows.