Ukraine refugees: Sheffield families make 'direct appeal' outside Home Office doors for updates on loved ones' visas
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Delays and backlogs to visa applications have reportedly left thousands of Ukrainian people adrift in temporary accommodation across Europe.
In addition, families and applicants say there is ‘no system’ to get updates on applications, leaving them anxiously waiting to learn if they have been approved or turned down.
Outside Sheffield’s branch of the Home Office at Vulcan House today (May 3), families arrived to directly ask whether their loved ones will be let into the UK.
One attendee was senior lecturer at Sheffield Hallam Tanya Klymenko. She brought a placard with the names of her friend, Nataliia, and her two children, who have been waiting 37 days for their visas.
"My friends fled Kiev in February, “said Tanya. “They were injured in a car crash during a bombing.
"They have been to Romania, Bulgaria, and then Germany. Now they are in Spain.
"I’m here today because I was desperate and they are desperate too. That desperation comes from the uncertainty of the past 77 days. It takes a toll.
"There is no system for ordinary people to get updates. They must call their MP who have a number just for them. I know from someone at an MP’s office who said they can be on hold for three hours. And the answer we get are ‘just a few more days’ or ‘just a week more’.”
Delays between the point visas are approved and when applicants are told are also severe.
200,000 British families offered to sponsor refugees in March under the Homes for Ukraine scheme. Tanya says despite the show of support, many will not have “got a reply” from the Government.
Anton Levsiushkin, who lives in Hillsborough and was born in Mariupol, said he knows a mother who received their approvals on April 26 with letters dated April 14.
Anton was at Vulcan House today with a placard bearing the names, faces and visa application numbers of 11 of his friends of family who had been waiting up to 37 days for their visas.
“It’s incredibly frustrating," said Anton. “I’m sick and tired of waiting. I went and waited three weeks in Germany with my sister for her papers to be issued.
"If you don’t have an international travel document – for pictures and biometrics, for example – they need you to go to the country’s capital, where it is more expensive. You will need to wait to collect your papers. You don’t know how long it will take, you don’t know who long to book accommodation or plan flights or anything. You rely on strangers.”
Tanya told the Star several families who went to Vulcan House were brought inside and told what stage their loved ones’ applications were at within an hour.
A government spokesperson said over 86,000 visas have so far been issued.
They said: “The changes the Home Office has made to streamline the visa system, including simplifying the forms and boosting staff numbers, are working and we are now processing visas as quickly as they come in.”