A British writer who has welcomed four Ukrainian refugees into her home has urged the Government to drop the visa process after it took her 11 hours to fill in the forms and nine days to bring the family to the UK.
Jane Finlay, 56, criticized the Government following difficulties she faced trying to bring over a family of four women from Ukraine to the UK on the Homes for Ukraine scheme.
Ms Finlay said once she applied for the scheme there was “no assistance” from the Government in finding a family to house, so looked on Facebook where she connected with a woman called Nadia.
Nadia, whose last name has not been given for safeguarding reasons, was looking to seek refuge in the UK along with her 16-year-old daughter, her sister-in-law and her 31-year-old niece after Russia launched a war with Ukraine on February 27.
Ms Finlay told the PA news agency: “It became very quickly apparent that the application process [of the family scheme] was the only support we were going to get from the Government.
“It’s really cynical on their behalf because there’s really generous members of the UK public trying to do something and the Government has done absolutely nothing apart from set this website up where we register.
“I have a degree, three of the family members are graduates, and it still took us 11 hours to fill in the forms.
“They had to provide information such as the father of the 16-year-old had to give written permission that she could leave the country, in English, but he’s fighting in Ukraine, so it’s a ridiculous thing to ask. Part of the questions seemed cut and pasted from another scheme as they were completely irrelevant, all the information we had to provide we had to give in PDF form, which adds another layer of complexity to people trying to stay online in a war zone.
“I know, anecdotally, this system ended up causing arguments between sponsors and the families coming because it’s such a difficult process.”
Once the visas were approved, Ms Finlay left her home in Cornwall and flew to Berlin on March 21. There she traveled to the border in Medyka, Poland, with her friend Pete Jones to collect Nadia and her family.
The group then went to a visa processing center in Berlin to skip the queues in Poland, as one of the family members had an expired passport and the family was traveling with two chihuahuas which required paperwork, but when they arrived Ms Finlay said the workers had not heard of the Homes for Ukraine scheme.
They went to Calais after receiving notice the visas had been approved but did not receive them until the next day.
Ms Finlay said she eventually traveled with the family from Calais to Folkestone on March 31 – nine days after meeting them at the border.
The family has now settled with her and her partner Michael Whitehill in Cornwall.
“I’m still hearing daily of women and children in bases not able to come over because the visas haven’t been processed. It’s absolutely heart breaking,” she said.
“We absolutely believe, it’s the only way forward, this Government should waive the visa. So many people here in Cornwall who have voted Conservative all their lives are now they’re saying they won’t be voting Tory anymore because the Government’s response has been shameful.”
A Government spokesperson said: “The Homes for Ukraine scheme was set up in record time but we acknowledge progress approving visas has not been good enough. 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.
“We have partnered with the charity Reset Communities and Refugees to fund and provide a matching service for sponsors and refugees to ensure that matches made are suitable, safe and successful. This service will vet eligibility, assess needs, and provide training for sponsors to ensure they can support the people they host.”