The UK Government is continuing to hold back Ukrainian refugees trying to reach the country according to a Glasgow based refugee charity.
Positive Action in Housing, the oldest and longest established refugee hosting programme in the UK, is helping 674 Ukrainian refugee families to reach Scotland, England, Wales and Ireland.
The charity has criticised the UK Government for its “flagrant disregard of the refugee convention,” which states that refugees do not require visas to enter countries.
Unlike all other countries in the EU, the UK Home Office is continuing to impose visas and sponsorship requirements on war refugees.
While Poland has taken almost 2.5 million Ukranian refugees, Romania just over 600,000, Moldova almost 400,000, the UK has issued fewer than 5,000 visas under the Homes for Ukraine scheme, not even a sixth of the number of applications.
Homes for Ukraine allows Ukrainians to come to the UK if they are matched with a host to act as an individual sponsor for their visa and who can provide them with accommodation for at least six months (the host will be paid £350 a month by the government to do so).
Under this scheme, refugees will get a three-year visa and be entitled to work and use public services in the UK.
But the scheme has been criticised for significant delays by MPs and charities, with family members having to finance extended hotel stays in countries bordering Ukraine while they wait for the Home Office bureaucracy to process visa applications.
Robina Quireshi, Director of Positive Action in Housing, said: “Some of the people who asked us for help with visas and sponsors are right now in grave danger in Eastern Ukraine.
“Had they left ten days ago, they might have had a chance, but they are literally waiting to be killed.
“People waited for visas and sponsors to come through, and it has not happened. The blame for this delay lies squarely at the door of the UK Government and we will continue to track the most urgent cases.
“The UK Government is clearly frustrating attempts by Ukrainians to find a safe route here. They are putting up blocks to delay their travel.
“This has put in further danger the lives of people who do not have the luxury of waiting. Instead they continue to mount a smokescreen, throwing money at pointless initiatives, when they should immediately lift visa restrictions, have UK officials in the ports and stations at bordering countries to help people – especially women, children and unaccompanied minors – to reach the UK safely.
“To avoid delay we have advised people to travel visa-free to Ireland and choose the Scottish Government as their sponsor. If the visas come through then they can travel onto the UK.
“Twelve miles across the water, Ireland expects to take in up to 200,000 Ukrainian refugees.
“This country must do what every other country in Europe is doing right now, roll up our sleeves work hand in hand with NGOs and registered volunteers and let Ukrainians enter the UK.
“Drop the sponsorship and visa requirements so that people do not need to wait in war zones or be targets for people traffickers and people with the wrong intent on social media.”
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