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Britain has so far granted just 2,700 visas to Ukrainians under the Homes for Ukraine scheme despite having received ten times as many applications, it has emerged.

Official UK figures showed there have been 28,300 visa applications received under the sponsorship scheme, plus a further 31,200 under the Ukraine Family Scheme.

Home Office officials gave the total number of visas issued as 25,500 – including 2,700 under the Homes for Ukraine scheme and 22,800 under the family scheme.

The scheme opened on March 14 to allow individuals, charities and businesses to bring Ukrainians – including those with no family ties to the UK – to safety.

However, Britain retains a visa requirement on security grounds while other European countries have waived checks in response to the humanitarian crisis. 

And the United Nations refugee agency said that a total of more than four million refugees have now fled Ukraine since Russia launched its war on February 24.

It comes as senior Government ministers are to hold daily crisis meetings to get the beleaguered schemes for Ukrainian refugees back on track.

Ukrainian refugee Anna Zamostana, from the city of Buchach, volunteers at the Ukrainian Cultural Centre 'Dnipro' sorting out humanitarian aid for compatriots in Manchester yesterday

Ukrainian refugee Anna Zamostana, from the city of Buchach, volunteers at the Ukrainian Cultural Centre 'Dnipro' sorting out humanitarian aid for compatriots in Manchester yesterday

Ukrainian refugee Anna Zamostana, from the city of Buchach, volunteers at the Ukrainian Cultural Centre ‘Dnipro’ sorting out humanitarian aid for compatriots in Manchester yesterday

The UK Government set out details of the sponsorship scheme to help Ukrainian refugees

The UK Government set out details of the sponsorship scheme to help Ukrainian refugees

The UK Government set out details of the sponsorship scheme to help Ukrainian refugees

Home Secretary Priti Patel and Communities Secretary Michael Gove will chair the sessions with those running the widely criticised Homes for Ukraine programme.

More than 200,000 kind-hearted British families have volunteered to open their homes to Ukrainians fleeing the war, but many have been left angered and frustrated by swathes of red tape.

The latest figures on visa applications 

  • 4,000,000: Total number of refugees to have fled Ukraine  
  • 59,500: Total number of applications from Ukrainians for UK visas
  • 28,300: Applications for visas under the Homes for Ukraine scheme
  • 31,200: Applications for visas under the Ukraine Family Scheme
  • 25,000: Total number of visas issued
  • 22,800: Visas issued under Ukraine Family Scheme
  • 2,700: Visas issued under Homes for Ukraine
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Boris Johnson said he wanted a ‘light touch’ visa process for Ukrainian refugees, but one that also allowed for security checks to be carried out.

Questioned by Dame Diana Johnson why the UK Government did not bring in a streamlined emergency humanitarian visa for those applying, the Prime Minister told the Commons Liaison Committee: ‘I think we’re not that far apart then, because what I wanted was a system that was as light touch as possible and would enable people to come here, but would enable us also to do checks.

‘We are outside the Schengen system, we have the advantage of being able to clarify people’s status, (that) they’re bona fide – that’s not a bad thing if you want to have a programme that really works and commands confidence.’

Defending the rate of progress in resettling refugees, the Prime Minister added: ‘These numbers are climbing.

‘There is no cap on the family reunion scheme, that’s already at the thick end of 25,000. That’s a pretty big town.’

Mr Johnson said he did not yet know how many of the 2,700 people who have been given visas for the Homes for Ukraine sponsorship scheme had arrived in the UK.

He also said: ‘We’re going to have a lot of Ukrainians, and it’s going to be a great thing, it’s going to be a great thing. They are fantastic people.’ 

Ukrainian refugees (from left) Anna Zamostana, Marya Vynnyshenko, Anna Vynnyshenko, 10, and Tanya Vynnyshenko volunteer at the Ukrainian Cultural Centre in Manchester yesterday

Ukrainian refugees (from left) Anna Zamostana, Marya Vynnyshenko, Anna Vynnyshenko, 10, and Tanya Vynnyshenko volunteer at the Ukrainian Cultural Centre in Manchester yesterday

Ukrainian refugees (from left) Anna Zamostana, Marya Vynnyshenko, Anna Vynnyshenko, 10, and Tanya Vynnyshenko volunteer at the Ukrainian Cultural Centre in Manchester yesterday

Ukrainian refugee children from Buchach volunteer at the centre in Manchester yesterday

Ukrainian refugee children from Buchach volunteer at the centre in Manchester yesterday

Ukrainian refugee children from Buchach volunteer at the centre in Manchester yesterday

Earlier today, the Prime Minister defended the Government’s ‘overwhelmingly generous’ record on taking refugees as the Liberal Democrats said ‘paperwork is being put ahead of people’.

How do I house a Ukrainian refugee, what if I don’t know their name, how long do they stay with me? Q&A on UK’s Homes for Ukraine scheme and how YOU can help families fleeing war 

– What is the scheme?

The Homes for Ukraine programme is a sponsorship scheme allowing people and organisations in Britain to offer Ukrainians fleeing the war a home in the UK.

The scheme allows individuals, charities, community groups and businesses to bring people escaping the war to safety – even if they have no ties to the UK.

Anyone with a room or home available can offer it to a Ukrainian individual or a family, though those offering will be vetted and Ukrainian applicants will undergo security checks. 

– How long can refugees stay with a family or individual?

Members of the public providing accommodation to Ukrainians must do so for at least six months.

Sponsored Ukrainians will be granted three years’ leave to remain in the UK, with entitlement to work and access public services.

– What security checks will be carried out? 

Sponsors and all adults in their households will need to submit to security checks and possibly also safeguarding checks.

The suitability of the accommodation may also be assessed by their local council.

Ukrainians will be subject to ‘standard’ security checks, with biometric checks made after they arrive in the UK to avoid delays.

The Government has said steps will be taken to ensure people who might be ‘intent on exploitation’ are prevented from ‘abusing’ the new scheme.

– How are children going to be protected? 

A spokesman for the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) said the charity did not want to see ‘unnecessary barriers’ built into the process, but ‘it is vital child protection is built into every stage of the Government’s and local authorities’ response to this crisis’.

Paul Anticoni, chief executive of World Jewish Relief, said the protection of those who have had to leave their homes – many of whom are women and children – ‘has to be a priority for any government or agencies that are involved in accommodation’.

– Is there any compensation for hosting – and what can you use it for?

Those offering a place to stay will receive an optional tax-free monthly payment of £350 which will not affect benefit entitlements or council tax status.

The ‘thank you’ payment is limited to one payment per residential address, and can be spent or saved as you wish. Hosts should not charge any rent. 

The Government has also said local authority areas will be entitled to more than £10,000 per Ukrainian refugee using the fresh route to the UK.

‘Additional payments’ will be available to support school-age children who need to be accommodated within the education system, he said.

– Do sponsors provide anything other than accommodation?

Sponsors are not expected to provide meals or cover the costs of food and living expenses for their guests, unless they wish to do so philanthropically.

– Can sponsors help refugees find work and access services? 

The Government will provide information to sponsors so that they can point their guests to organisations who can help them access benefits, register with a GP and with school placements.

All refugees will be allowed to seek and take up employment, and there is nothing stopping sponsors helping them find a job. 

– Who can be a host?

Sponsors can be of any nationality and any immigration status as long as they have permission to be in the UK for at least six months.

Anyone with a spare room, or separate self-contained accommodation that is unoccupied and available for at least six months can volunteer to help.

– Who can be a guest?

The website says someone is eligible if they are a ‘Ukrainian national or the immediate family member of a Ukrainian national, and were resident in Ukraine prior to 1 January 2022.’

The scheme is open for adults and children within family units.

– How do you apply? 

If you have a named person who you wish to sponsor you should get in contact with them directly and prepare to fill in a visa application with all their details and yours. 

– What if you don’t have a name to give? 

People wanting to be sponsors who do not know anyone personally fleeing the Ukraine can register their interest here: homesforukraine.campaign.gov.uk.

The Government will work with charities, faith groups and universities to match potential hosts with people from Ukraine – so you can still get involved if you don’t know anyone from the country. 

Anyone registering will receive updates on the security checks, information on the status of the arrangement and the role of the local council in providing wider support.

Can you host AND employ a refugee?

There is nothing in the Government’s FAQs on the scheme which say you cannot host and employ a refugee, so it would appear that you can – for example if you run a small business.

However, to be sure, MailOnline has contacted the Department for Levelling Up, Housing & Communities for clarity on this. 

What rights will Ukrainian refugees have?

Refugees will be granted leave to remain in the UK for three years. They will be able to work and access benefits and public services – including healthcare and schooling.

– What rights will you have if there are problems?

A change in circumstances could mean that someone is then unable to continue housing someone for the full six months.

A Government source told the Daily Telegraph that the state would get involved if a refugee has to find other housing earlier than the six month period, and that this could then be taxpayer-funded.

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Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey said in the Commons that an elderly couple on the Polish-Ukrainian border told him ‘they have been told that it’s just too complicated’ to come to the UK as refugees.

He said: ‘Now the Government’s own figures say the same. Paperwork is being put ahead of people. When wealthy businessmen from over 50 countries can come to the UK visa-free, why does the Prime Minister insist that a traumatised Ukrainian mother and child must first fill out a visa form?’

Boris Johnson said: ‘Everybody I think is pulling together, the number of people who have come forward to offer their homes is incredible.

‘But I really don’t think that he should deprecate what the UK is offering. We have already given 25,000 people, have already got visas, we are processing 1,000 a day, and there is no limit, no upper limit to the number that we can take.

‘And this is a country that has already been the most generous in taking people from Afghanistan, the 15,000 under Operation Pitting, 104,000 applications from the Hong Kong Chinese, this is a country that is overwhelmingly generous to people coming in fear of their lives, yes it is, and so is this Government.’ 

Mr Johnson also faced calls to ‘cut Home Office red tape’ to help more Ukrainians come into the UK at a quicker rate. 

At Prime Minister’s Questions, Conservative MP for North Thanet Sir Roger Gale said: ‘Today’s updated Government figures show that of 28,300 applications submitted under the sponsorship scheme by people displaced in Putin’s war, just 2,700 have been processed.

‘Could he please tell the House how many to date of those people have actually arrived in the United Kingdom and will he give his support to Lord Harrington to cut through the Home Office red tape, simplify the application process and get people into the country?’

Mr Johnson replied: ‘We are processing 1,000 a day and I think that the country can – 25,000 visas have already been issued as I just told the House. Almost 200,000 families’ homes have opened their arms to Ukrainians coming in fear of their lives, and there is no limit on the scheme. I think we can be incredibly proud of what the UK is doing.’

But Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman Alistair Carmichael, MP for Orkney and Shetland, said today: ‘More than 150,000 families are offering to welcome refugees into their homes, but the Conservatives are offering only red tape and delays.

‘Their response has been appallingly slow and chaotic, leaving thousands of Ukrainians in limbo trying to get a visa. Ministers need to work harder and faster to match the compassion shown by the British public.

‘Ukrainian refugees should be allowed to come to the UK now, without first having to apply for a visa. And the Government should set up a fast, ambitious resettlement scheme, working with refugee agencies to bring Ukrainians directly to the UK.’

The Local Government Association said some Ukrainian refugees have been ‘presenting as homeless’, despite being part of the UK Government resettlement schemes.

Chairman Councillor James Jamieson told MPs on the Levelling Up, Housing and Communities Committee: ‘One of the big issues we’re all worried about is people presenting as homeless.

‘The LGA did a survey last week of councils – we had 190 responses from councils with housing responsibilities, which is around two-thirds of authorities, of which 57 of the 190 said they already had people presenting as homeless.

‘That is 144 cases of homelessness – that’s 57 councils, 144 cases. I will make sure the data is correct and get that sent to you, but I’ll give it to you verbally.

‘Forty-four of which were from the family scheme, 36 of which were from the sponsorship scheme and 64 were from unknown or other.

‘We believe there is an element of people presenting as homeless because they are coming to Ireland and then, with the free movement, able to come to the UK, so that maybe an element of the unknown.’

Meanwhile the new refugees minister Lord Harrington appeared before MPs in the Commons today with an update on progress.

Speaking to the Levelling Up, Housing and Communities Committee, Lord Harrington said: ‘If I’m positive, I can say we’ve got 30,000 completed forms thereabouts. But we have not got everything right. It is not as seamless as it should be.’

He added: ‘We (the Home Office) are not trying to slow things up. The last time we looked, there were more than 300 staff and if we include both schemes, about 500 staff. We’ve started evening working, we’ve started weekend working. This is like an emergency operation.

‘It is not that, ‘Oh they will just have to wait’ – it is people there who are desperate to come over, they’ve got through the system and we’ve got to get them here as quickly as possible.’

Asked how many people had arrived as part of the Homes for Ukraine scheme, the former Watford MP said it was ‘too early to publish that data’ but vowed to write to the committee by early next week with the figures.

He said he hoped civil servants would be able to process 15,000 applications per week via both schemes within the next three weeks.

Lord Harrington – who was previously involved in the Syrian resettlement scheme – said there was a need for security checks to ensure Ukrainians applying ‘are who they say they are’, but that questions such as ‘are you a war criminal?’ had been removed from the standard form that had been used.

‘There has been some talk, quite correctly in my view, that the visa application process, the actual filling it out, is too slow,’ Lord Harrington added.

‘I agree with that. I sat down on Saturday morning and spent just under an hour filling one out myself, and I was sitting comfortably with a cup of tea rather than being a refugee, not in the Ukraine but in Poland or wherever. We are going through every step of trying to shorten that form.’

Emma Haddad, director general for asylum and protection at the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC), said the length of the form for the sponsorship scheme had been cut by a third since applications for refugees first opened after the conflict with Russia started.

Earlier in the session, MPs heard how some Ukrainian refugees have been ‘presenting as homeless’, despite being part of the UK Government resettlement schemes.

Councillor James Jamieson, chairman of the Local Government Association (LGA), said it was an issue councils were ‘all worried about’.

He told the committee that 144 Ukrainian arrivals had declared themselves homeless to 57 councils.

‘Forty-four of which were from the family scheme, 36 of which were from the sponsorship scheme and 64 were from unknown or other,’ Mr Jamieson added.

‘We believe there is an element of people presenting as homeless because they are coming to Ireland and then, with the free movement, able to come to the UK, so that (is) maybe an element of the unknown.’

DLUHC officials said they would be working with councils to understand the ‘scale’ of the problem and that local authorities would be able to fund accommodation out of their individual refugee grants. 

Two Ukrainian children walk out of the customs office at Przemysl Glowny train station in Poland yesterday after disembarking a train from Ukraine to flee the Russian invasion

Two Ukrainian children walk out of the customs office at Przemysl Glowny train station in Poland yesterday after disembarking a train from Ukraine to flee the Russian invasion

Two Ukrainian children walk out of the customs office at Przemysl Glowny train station in Poland yesterday after disembarking a train from Ukraine to flee the Russian invasion

A Ukrainian family disembarks a train at Przemysl Glowny train station in Poland yesterday

A Ukrainian family disembarks a train at Przemysl Glowny train station in Poland yesterday

A Ukrainian family disembarks a train at Przemysl Glowny train station in Poland yesterday

A Government source said that 300 officials were now working on processing the deluge of applications – including night shifts and weekend working.

Concert for Ukraine raises £12.2 million for humanitarian effort 

A fundraising concert for Ukraine featuring Ed Sheeran and the country’s 2016 Eurovision winner has raised £12.2million for the humanitarian effort in the war-torn nation.

The two-hour Concert for Ukraine was organised to raise money for the Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC) and its response to the Russian invasion.

Camila Cabello and Ed Sheeran perform in the concert in Birmingham last night

Camila Cabello and Ed Sheeran perform in the concert in Birmingham last night

Camila Cabello and Ed Sheeran perform in the concert in Birmingham last night

The evening at the Resorts World Arena featured a star-studded line-up also including Camila Cabello, Anne-Marie and Gregory Porter – and was punctuated by short video pieces documenting the lives of displaced Ukrainians both inside and outside the country.

At the end of the night, the hosts announced that ticket sales, advertising, sponsorship and donations had led to the grand total, but it was expected to continue rising.

Sheeran took to the stage solo for a two-song set of his hits Perfect and Bad Habits. Between the tracks, he told the audience: ‘Thank you so much for coming. It’s such an important cause and I am so honoured to be here.’

He was forced to pause briefly as he began his second song, admitting light-heartedly ‘I’ve got the wrong guitar’. After making a quick change he resumed the show, to cheers from the crowds.

Pop superstar Cabello was backed by a string section for a performance of Coldplay’s hit Fix You before she was joined by Sheeran for a live debut of their new track Bam Bam.

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Shadow home secretary, Yvette Cooper, and shadow levelling up secretary, Lisa Nandy, decried in a letter to Ms Patel and Mr Gove what they called a ‘shameful scale of bureaucracy’, which they claimed is ‘preventing desperately vulnerable people from reaching sanctuary in the UK’.

They called for clarity on the length of time taken for visas to be issued and how long security checks are taking.

The Labour MPs wrote: ‘The result of unnecessary Home Office bureaucracy is that desperate Ukrainian families are being let down.

‘While the response of the British public has been overwhelming, with more than 150,000 families signed up to open their homes, the system you have created is squandering that generosity and failing to deliver the support that our country rightly wants to provide.

‘The Government has known for months about the potential invasion of Ukraine by Russia.

‘It is therefore unacceptable that, more than a month on from the start of the conflict, there has been so little progress and there are so many people waiting in limbo before they can reach some security and support.’

Sonya Sceats, chief executive of the Freedom from Torture charity, described the sponsorship scheme numbers as ‘woeful’, and called on the Government to ‘cut the red tape’. 

‘In a month where people across the country signed up to welcome more refugees than the Government has in 10 years, these woeful numbers prove why visa-based schemes are an unsuitable gateway for refugees fleeing Ukraine to reach safety here in the UK,’ she said.

‘Increasing reports of horrendous sexual violence against Ukrainian women and girls make it all the more urgent for the Government to cut the red tape so that survivors can get here quickly and access services from specialist trauma services like Freedom from Torture.’

Meanwhile, an extra 200 high-security ‘Firecrest’ computer terminals – needed to process the sensitive details – have also been deployed.

The process of approving applications has also been ‘redesigned’ to make it quicker, Whitehall sources said.

‘The Home Office is working flat out to streamline processes while maintaining vital security checks to make it easier for Ukrainians to come to the UK,’ the source said.

‘The number of visas being granted under Homes for Ukraine should start to ramp up at the end of this week.’

And the source insisted that the Government has still set up ‘one of the fastest and biggest visa programmes in British history.’

Earlier this week the Daily Mail reported widespread frustration and ‘growing panic’ in Whitehall at the slow pace of the Homes for Ukraine programme.

Now most of that irritation is being directed at Miss Patel’s department, which processes refugees’ visas and oversees the vetting of applicants.

One source said ministers were clear they ‘have to start delivering on this’, or risked alienating thousands of British voters who are desperate to help.

Lord Harrington told MPs two weeks ago that he expected ‘thousands’ of evacuees would have arrived through the Homes for Ukraine scheme by now.

The number to have actually made it here has not yet been released by the Government, but is thought to be in the hundreds.

The Home Secretary has repeatedly stressed the importance of maintaining a rigorous visa application system for national security reasons.

Although the vast majority of people fleeing Ukraine are women and children, Miss Patel has said that it would be ‘naive and misguided’ to think Russian agents could not be among them.

A full Government-backed system to match hosts with evacuees is due to be announced soon.

But until then, volunteers can pair up informally with Ukrainians and include those details in the Homes for Ukraine online application form.

Hosts have been offered a £350-a-month, tax-free ‘thank you’ from the Government in exchange for taking in refugees for a minimum of six months.

The UK’s other visa programme, the Ukraine Family Scheme, allowing families to be reunited in Britain, saw a slow start but has now handed out more than 22,000 visas to evacuees.

‘No UK sponsorship visas approved for 70 Ukrainian refugees in Poland’

A charity which has helped around 70 Ukrainian refugees in Poland apply for UK visas says none so far have been approved in the 13 days since the sponsorship scheme opened for applications.

Volunteers for Love Bristol have arranged temporary accommodation for 70 Ukrainian refugees in and around Przemysl, in south-eastern Poland, while they wait to hear if they will be approved to travel to the UK.

The team has a desk set up in a disused Tesco site, which is being used as a reception centre for Ukrainian refugees, to help people apply to travel under the UK’s Homes for Ukraine scheme which launched on March 18.

But so far everyone they have helped is still waiting for permission to come to the UK.

A family of Ukrainian refugees, Viktoria Artemenko (right) and her children Violetta and Vitaliy, outside temporary accommodation in Przemysl, Poland, today, as they wait for news of their UK visa application after being matched with a family in Manchester

A family of Ukrainian refugees, Viktoria Artemenko (right) and her children Violetta and Vitaliy, outside temporary accommodation in Przemysl, Poland, today, as they wait for news of their UK visa application after being matched with a family in Manchester

A family of Ukrainian refugees, Viktoria Artemenko (right) and her children Violetta and Vitaliy, outside temporary accommodation in Przemysl, Poland, today, as they wait for news of their UK visa application after being matched with a family in Manchester

Volunteer Andy Persson said the demand they are experiencing is ‘quite overwhelming’, and the team is working 17-hour days, adding: ‘We’re definitely at capacity and beyond.’

The 57-year-old told the PA news agency: ‘It’s frankly embarrassing because we’ve got all the desks side by side with our big UK flag, and then there’s Germany next door, Spain on the other side.

‘And we’ve been seeing people come in, people come to them, buses come in, they get everything sorted, straight onto buses – 200 people a day going straight off to Spain, Germany, France.

‘People coming to us… we do tell everyone ‘it’s going to be two or three weeks you’re here before you go – are you sure you want to do that?’.

‘And so some of them who’ve got a bit of English and would feel more comfortable in the UK, that’s why they’re doing it, or they’ve got contacts, they do want it but yeah, for others, it’s much more straightforward to go straight off to another country and then they get all the processing done there.’

Viktoria Artemenko (centre) and her children Violetta and Vitaliy, outside temporary accommodation in Przemysl, Poland, today, as they wait for news of their UK visas

Viktoria Artemenko (centre) and her children Violetta and Vitaliy, outside temporary accommodation in Przemysl, Poland, today, as they wait for news of their UK visas

Viktoria Artemenko (centre) and her children Violetta and Vitaliy, outside temporary accommodation in Przemysl, Poland, today, as they wait for news of their UK visas

The charity said it was told by a British official that some visas for Ukrainians trying to reunite with family have taken a month to process, while the fastest time is a week.

Some refugees have travelled five hours to Warsaw after receiving emails telling them to pick up their visas, only to be turned away because they are not ready, it said.

Mr Persson said he encountered an old woman in tears at the visa office in Warsaw on Tuesday, who had been forced to sleep on the train station floor the previous night.

The charity has provided her with accommodation and is helping her apply under the family route so she can join her granddaughter in London.

It has also arranged a match for a Ukrainian man who needs dialysis treatment every two days with a UK sponsor who lives close to the Southmead hospital in Bristol.

Love Bristol volunteer Andy Persson talks to media outside temporary accommodation in Przemysl, Poland, today

Love Bristol volunteer Andy Persson talks to media outside temporary accommodation in Przemysl, Poland, today

Love Bristol volunteer Andy Persson talks to media outside temporary accommodation in Przemysl, Poland, today

Calling the situation ‘ridiculous’, he said: ‘If the process was simpler, we could do it much, much quicker and every person you ring, every person I’ve rung in the UK, really desperate to help, really keen to help, so generous with everything.

‘And it’s just frustrating to know there’s that many people out there, we’ve got this many people who would love to go and take advantage of that, but it’s just the process in the middle of preventing it.’

Mr Persson said just one Home Office official has made contact with them on the ground, directing them to the visa office several weeks ago.

Commenting on a lack of official UK presence in the area, he said: ‘When you listen to what’s said in Parliament, when they talk about bending over backwards and all that we’re doing for the refugees, you come down here and see actually what’s happening, which is nothing.’

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Source: Daily Mail

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