Revealed: Home Office forms asking Ukrainian fathers on front line to give consent for children to go to UK and seven-year-olds if they are a threat to national security as families reveal red tape nightmare
- EXCLUSIVE: Brits share their frustrations with bureaucratic sponsorship forms
- Schoolgirls, as young as seven, were asked if they are national security threats
- Fathers conscripted to fight were made to fill out consent forms for their kids
- Furious row has erupted over delays for Homes for Ukraine scheme’s progress
- Has your application been delayed? Email Jacob.Thorburn@mailonline.co.uk
British families frustrated by Home Office red tape have revealed their fury at a ‘broken’ Homes for Ukraine application process that sees children asked if they are security threats and fathers fighting on the front line made to fill out consent forms.
Has your Homes for Ukraine application been hit with delays?
Kind-hearted hosts from across the UK have told MailOnline of how their efforts to open their homes have been hit with snags as thousands of desperate refugees remain stuck in limbo.
The Government has come under fire for the slow processing of visa applications as Ukrainian evacuees, some as young as seven and travelling just with their siblings, are stuck in neighbouring countries with little money and no food or spare clothes.
Of further concern to hosts is the cumbersome 50-page application process, which asks schoolchildren to divulge if they have ever been considered a threat to the national security of the United Kingdom.
Some hosts claim their sponsorship forms were ‘lost’, while other horror stories reveal visa applications for the same family saw one half allowed to come to the UK, while the other half were left waiting for a reply for a week.
Meanwhile, another host from Manchester told MailOnline how the pair of Ukrainian girls his family hope to sponsor were asked, as part of the visa application, to attach a letter of consent from their father – who was conscripted by the Ukrainian Armed Forces at the start of the war.
Of further concern to hosts is the cumbersome 50-page application process, which asks schoolchildren to divulge if they have ever been considered a threat to the national security of the United Kingdom
Another host from Manchester told MailOnline how the pair of Ukrainian girls his family hope to sponsor were asked, as part of the visa application, to attach a letter of consent from their father – who was conscripted by the Ukrainian Armed Forces at the start of the war
Last month, the Government announced the launch of the Homes for Ukraine scheme which will pay families £350-a-month to take in those fleeing Russian brutality for at least six months.
Within hours of launching, the website for registering interest had crashed and subsequently more than 200,000 people signed up to the programme.
Dr Paul Murray, a consultant scientist based in Bristol, has called on senior ministers and civil servants to quit
Some 10,800 people had arrived under the Ukraine family scheme but only 1,200 had made it to the UK under Homes for Ukraine sponsorship since Tuesday, April 5, provisional data published on the Home Office’s website showed.
Dr Paul Murray, a consultant scientist based in Bristol, hopes to house Ukrainian lawyer Yevheniaa Filippova, her son Lev, nine, and daughter Nelly, two, who are fleeing from port city of Odessa.
He thinks senior ministers and civil servants should offer their resignations in the face of the ‘national embarrassment’ that is the Homes for Ukraine visa scheme.
‘These are women and children who are vulnerable and need protecting’, he told MailOnline.
‘The incompetence is astounding. It is time for some senior civil servants and ministers to go. Don’t they understand the situation for these refugees?
‘The constant messaging of “we are simplifying the process”, and “they don’t need to go to a visa centre” is all bull****. This family break down in tears every time they call me because they’re stuck.
‘This system is broken, and it’s absolutely ridiculous. People must lose their jobs over this.’
Ukrainian lawyer Yevheniaa Filippova, 39, and her daughter Nelly, 2, fled the port city of Odessa on the Black Sea, which has come under fire from Russian rockets in recent weeks
Lev, nine, and Nelly have fled invading Russian troops in the west of Ukraine
Other examples of the bureaucratic web that has delayed countless Homes for Ukraine applications have come to light in recent days.
Compliance manager Andy Johnston and his family first submitted their applications to house two Ukrainian girls, Oleksandra, aged 15 and Anastasiia, 19, in their Manchester home four weeks ago.
The girls’ father was signed up to stay and fight for the Ukrainian Armed Forces at the start of the Russian invasion, meaning the sisters had to travel to Poland alone.
Because Oleksandra doesn’t own a passport, she was asked to travel to a visa processing centre hundreds of miles away in Warsaw, where she provided her evidence on March 31.
Compliance manager Andy Johnston (pictured) and his family first submitted their applications to house two Ukrainian girls in their Manchester home four weeks ago
Ukrainian refugees Oleksandra, and Anastasiia, 19, (right) are stuck in Poland with their supply of money, food and clothes rapidly running out
Included within Oleksandra’s forms was a question asking her to provide a letter of consent for her travel, authorised by a parent or guardian, before she could come to the UK.
But as they wait for the results of her application, the girls are now stuck in Poland with no money, food or spare clothes, Andy explains.
‘It’s a really worrying situation’, he tells MailOnline.
‘We sent them some money to help them get to Poland, and now we’re going to have to send them some more to help support them with the essentials.
‘It has been 26 days since our initial priority application was submitted and we’ve not had any updates on their applications at all. It’s shocking really.’
Responding to the parental letters of consent, a Government spokesperson told MailOnline: ‘The safety and wellbeing of asylum seeking children is paramount. Due to safeguarding requirements, unaccompanied minors are not currently eligible for the Homes for Ukraine Scheme.’
Home Secretary Priti Patel has been forced to apologise over delays to the visa scheme.
Earlier this week, Environment Secretary George Eustice said the Home Secretary was ‘looking very closely at this to look at whatever else can be done to remove any barriers’.
He told Sky News: ‘Well obviously it’s different for countries that are bordering the Ukraine, because people fleeing a war like this obviously will cross the nearest land border, and that’s why countries like Poland and Hungary obviously are getting more of those refugees coming in.
‘But we have now issued visas under the two schemes we’ve got, in particular the sponsorship scheme, to around 40,000 Ukrainians and around 12,000 of those are already here.
‘We’ve made some changes already, making clear for instance that those with a Ukrainian passport don’t need to attend an appointment in person, and I know that Priti Patel’s looking very closely at this to look at whatever else can be done to remove any barriers as and when those arise.’
Home Secretary Priti Patel last week apologised ‘with frustration’ over the amount of time it was taking for Ukrainians to arrive in the UK under current visa schemes
In only six weeks of war in Ukraine, close to five million children have been forced to flee their homes and immigrate as refugees to neighbouring countries. Pictured: Ukrainian mothers in Krakow, Poland attend a protest against the killing of children in Ukraine
People who fled the war in Ukraine rest inside an indoor sports stadium being used as a refugee center, in the village of Medyka, a border crossing between Poland and Ukraine
Ruth Girardet, a leadership coach who lives in London, faced multiple hurdles before her refugees’ claims were accepted and describes the application system as ‘utterly broken’.
She filled out sponsorship forms for a Ukrainian mother and her two daughters, aged seven and 11 on March 21.
Within one of the pages on the 50-page application, the questionnaire asks the schoolchildren if they have ever been considered a threat to the UK’s national security.
‘I was astonished. The system is utterly broken’, she told MailOnline.
Ruth Girardet, a leadership coach who lives in London, faced multiple hurdles before her refugees’ claims were accepted and describes the application system as ‘utterly broken’
To compound her frustration, Ruth was told by the office of her MP, Emily Thornberry, that documentation for the third and final visa had been ‘lost’.
After enquiring about this, the final visa was eventually processed and accepted five days later, but the group only had one permission to travel form for the children.
That delay meant they were stuck in Poland and were told by border officials that their UK visas were ready to go, but they were not authorised to print them.
Several of those who offered their homes to Ukrainians within the first few days of the Homes for Ukraine scheme opening say they feel left behind as they claim more recent applications appear to be fast-tracked ahead of theirs.
Senior civil servants, including Second Permanent Secretary Simon Ridley, who worked on the Government’s Covid Task Force, and policy expert Louise Horton were understood to have been parachuted in to help streamline the process.
A Home Office hotline and separate email address were initially set up to deal with the thousands of incoming requests, but have since become less responsive, several hosts have said.
In some cases, hosts say that their applicants’ visas letters were due to arrive within two days – but are still yet to materialise weeks later.
‘The first four days appear to be the biggest hurdle, people who applied when the scheme first launched are being left behind, while those applying now are getting through quicker’, Ruth adds.
‘That’s shocking because those applying first were the ones who are most in need and in danger.’
Her frustration is being shared by other prospective hosts hundreds of miles away.
Businessman David Steward slammed the government’s ‘failed’ efforts to house Ukrainian refugees – comparing their plight to the 1940s generation of Brits who leapt into action to save more than 330,000 British soldiers stranded at Dunkirk.
He says conversations with the Ukrainian family he had been trying to sponsor have become more difficult to face as he hears the deafening blare of air raid sirens in the background.
‘The opportunity to help those fleeing a land war in Ukraine is this generation’s Dunkirk Little Ships moment.
‘The government are either hindering it with an under-resourced, hopeless system, or are actively obstructing it.’
A government spokesman told MailOnline: ‘We continue to process visas for the Homes for Ukraine scheme as quickly as possible, but accept progress has not been quick 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.
‘UK Visa and Immigration caseworkers are working as quickly as possible to process applications, but it is absolutely essential to ensure that issues of human trafficking are addressed and that safeguarding processes are in place to ensure children are travelling with their parents.’
Pictured: Suspected sex traffickers at the border with Ukraine, who could be looking for women. (Their faces have been pixellated for legal reasons)
An ex-army soldier talks to a Ukrainian refugee mother and child at the Polish/Ukraine boarder. (His face has been pixellated to protect his privacy)
It comes as the United Nation’s refugee agency warned Ukrainian women and children should not be matched with single male hosts over fears they could be exploited.
A spokesperson for the UNHCR said: ‘Matching done without the appropriate oversight may lead to increasing the risks women may face, in addition to the trauma of displacement, family separation and violence already experienced.’
Those concerns were echoed by the UK’s Charity Commission who want to ‘raise awareness of the risk of sexual exploitation, abuse and sexual harassment of those in need of assistance’.
Unbound Now, a network of anti-human trafficking agencies, say they had seen lone men try to lure women into vehicles at the Ukraine-Poland border.
‘It’s a challenging situation at the moment,’ concedes a spokesman for the charity.
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