‘Children are being shot’ Families slam Priti Patel as fleeing Ukrainians let down by UK

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Ukraine: Andrew Marr slams UK’s ‘tin ear’ over refugee crisis

Countless people have described fury at the bureaucracy involved in securing a visa for their family members.

A Ukrainian woman is being told to pay for her elderly grandfather to stay in the UK, despite the Home Office announcing more free visa routes would be opened.

Sofia Kovalevskaia from Dnipro has been in the UK since she was 10 years old, for close to 20 years. Ms Kovalevskaia’s grandfather was visiting her in Manchester when Putin ordered his troops to enter Ukraine and start a bloody war.

She told Express.co.uk: “He’s my granddad. He is my mum’s father. He is over 80 years old and there is a war going on in his country. He has no way of getting home and he is a widower.”

After countless failed calls and hours in the queue to UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI), one official told Ms Kovalevskaia they had “absolutely no idea” how to help and another told her to enlist an immigration lawyer.

“Children are being shot and blown to smithereens in our home country. It’s shocking how little support we’ve had when human lives are at stake. I can’t afford a lawyer”, she continued.

Many have said the UK’s asylum scheme pales in comparison to the EU, which announced that its member states would take in all Ukrainians regardless of whether they have family in the country or not.

Priti Patel announced visa schemes for those who have family in the country or a sponsor and Prime Minister Boris Johnson promised at the start of the crisis to let in 200,000 “eligible” Ukrainians.

But over the weekend it emerged that only 50 visas had been issued for Ukrainians so far. On Monday, the Home Office published their latest data showing that 300 visas had now been issued. So far, 8,900 applications have been submitted online and 4,300 people have booked visa appointments to submit applications. An extra 11,750 people have started but not yet finished applications. More than 1,000 people have already entered the Republic of Ireland.

Mr Johnson said in Prime Minister’s Questions last week: “I think we’ve taken more vulnerable people… than any other country in Europe.” But annually, the UK continues to receive about half the asylum seekers France does and a third that of Germany and Spain according to Media Storm.

The UK continues to receive about half the asylum seekers France does and a third that of Germany and Spain.

The UK continues to receive about half the asylum seekers France does and a third that of Germany (Image: PA IMAGES)

So far, 5,535 applications have been submitted online and 2,368 people have booked visa appointments to submit applications.

So far, 5,535 applications have been submitted online and 2,368 people have booked visa appointments (Image: PA IMAGES)

Ms Kovalevskaia is not alone. Oksana Palamarchuk is a British citizen living in west London, but originally from Ukraine. Her parents and her sister with her extended family are currently in west Ukraine, in Ivano-Frankivsk. Her husband’s sister and her family are in Lviv.

She says they are “desperately” trying to get their family here. Ms Palamarchuk continued: “I placed an enquiry through the number which was given by Ms Patel in her statement, but I have been waiting for days for an email to fill in the application forms for our families. Still nothing. Then I check the Home Office site and it says, ‘you can apply, click here.’ You click the link and it doesn’t open.”

For Ms Kovalevskaia, who says she is a “planner” and immensely organised, this is a strange situation to be in. “Now you can’t plan. You’re just stuck”, she says.

Steve Valdez-Symonds, Amnesty International UK’s Refugee and Migrant Rights Director, said to Express.co.uk that ministers like to present the UK as having a record of “generosity” when it comes to refugee emergencies.

But he says: “Successive UK governments have often fought tooth and nail to resist calls for more to be done in response to crises like those in Syria or with drownings in the Mediterranean.

“History is repeating itself – the UK’s response to last year’s crisis in Afghanistan was also botched, with begrudging and inadequate preparations that led to an emergency evacuation and a lack of competence or commitment in its aftermath.”

When Putin’s forces started raining missiles on Ukraine, Olga Kramarenko’s mother fled to Poland.

When Putin’s forces started raining missiles on Ukraine, Olga Kramarenko’s mother fled to Poland. (Image: PA IMAGES)

Priti Patel claimed she would introduce a new humanitarian route to enter Britain but was contradicted by Mr Johnson

Priti Patel claimed she would introduce a new humanitarian route to enter Britain but was contradict (Image: PA IMAGES)

When Putin’s forces started raining missiles on Ukraine, Olga Kramarenko’s mother fled to Poland. Now safely in Warsaw, she is trying to reach her daughter in Kent where she has lived for the last decade.

Alone and scared in Warsaw, she is waiting for her appointment to submit the documents. When Ms Kramarenko submitted her mother’s application form the earliest appointment available showed as nearly 2 weeks away.

Despite Ms Kramarenko uploading everything on the portal, her mother was asked to print out all her documents. Confused and upset, her mother hunted for somewhere to print everything in the Polish city which is unfamiliar to her.

Priti Patel claimed she would introduce a new humanitarian route to enter Britain but was contradicted by Mr Johnson who refuted the claim.
Liz Truss, the Foreign Secretary, blamed Ms Patel in the Commons for the fact that only 50 visas had been granted.

Liz Truss, the Foreign Secretary, blamed Ms Patel in the Commons for the fact that only 50 visas had been granted.

Liz Truss, the Foreign Secretary, blamed Ms Patel in the Commons for the fact that only 50 visas (Image: PA IMAGES)

Ms Kovalevskaia says she does not understand how the Home Office can “write up all of this supposed policy, spell check it, put the links in place, put a nice picture in there, publish it on the GOV UK website. But they didn’t have the strategic foresight to actually put it in effect.”

Ms Kovalevskaia thinks that people do not understand Ukrainians would not leave their homes if they did not have to.

Even the women, she says, wish they could stay and defend their country. Her grandad is desperate to go home and fight, “but it’s just not safe”. She wishes her answer to Home Office officials could be: “just watch the television and look at the news.”

She says: “We’re one family, all we want is one granddad to be able to stay here. One person. He’s not a menace to society, he is not a security risk. There’s not any damage these people can do. They just want to feel safe. We don’t feel welcome. We don’t feel respected or protected at all.”

Express.co.uk has contacted the Home Office for comment.



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