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UK criticized for slow visa issuance

Ukrainian orphans heading to the United Kingdom, on a stopover at Warsaw airport, March 21, 2022.

Despite the scale of Ukraine’s humanitarian crisis, the UK continues to require visas for Ukrainians fleeing war, unlike European Union (EU) countries, which have opened their doors wide to them. And these sesames are delivered only with parsimony, even if Boris Johnson affirms that his country has always shown itself “incredibly generous” with those in need of protection. On Wednesday March 30, the Home Office acknowledged that only 2,700 visas had been granted under Homes for Ukraine, a welcome program launched with fanfare in mid-March for Ukrainians without relatives in the UK.

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Only 25,500 visas have also been granted within the framework of family reunification, another reception mechanism, opened a month ago. These very modest figures should be compared with the 2.3 million Ukrainian refugees hosted by Poland, the 600,000 hosted by Romania, and the more than 200,000 registered in Germany. At St. Pancras station, the logical arrival point for Ukrainian families in London, the flow is so tenuous that there is not even a permanent reception system. The borough of Camden has just held up a banner in the colors of Ukraine in front of the Eurostar access terminal, in front of which a handful of volunteers station themselves at train arrival times.

The problem is not supply: more than 150,000 Britons have come forward on the Home Office site, saying they are ready to host refugees in their homes – they must have at least one room free and will receive 350 pounds sterling per month from the government to offset hospitality costs. But the Homes for Ukraine system presents a major difficulty: the hosts must themselves find Ukrainian candidates for departure. Dozens of NGOs and local authorities have come forward in recent days to assist them and put them in contact.

“It’s absurd, what do I tell him?” »

But as in the context of family reunification, Ukrainians must then succeed in filling out visa applications: the Home Office requires proof of identity, the forms are long and are not translated into Ukrainian. Contacted at the beginning of March, Euan MacDonald, a British journalist living in kyiv before the war, was trying from Warsaw to obtain visas for his daughter (of British nationality), his companion, Ukrainian, and her mother. He then explained that it was necessary to have access to a computer to carry out the process. “and speak perfect English”. It took him a week to get the visas.

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