A British man hoping to sponsor a refugee as part of the Homes for Ukraine scheme has described the process as “the triumph of bureaucracy over humanity and common sense”.
Simon Hay, 57, is in contact with a Ukrainian woman currently sleeping on a friend’s floor in Warsaw, Poland, while she awaits approval of her visa for the scheme – which has granted 2,700 visas from 28,300 applications, according to latest figures.
Mr Hay, a business consultant and data analyst from Ealing, west London, said he and his wife applied for the scheme on Sunday March 20 and have heard “nothing but silence” since then.
“It just seems crazy that we’re asking people to do forms first in a humanitarian crisis, in the middle of a war zone,” Mr Hay told the PA news agency.
“It seems as if we’re failing to put ourselves in the shoes of the people who are in this degree of suffering and this degree of stress.
“No confirmation email, nothing but silence… It’s the triumph of bureaucracy over humanity and common sense.”
Mr Hay said his family have received one “general” email telling them that “it is a process and will take time” to make the necessary checks.
He said the refugee they are in contact with was on holiday when Russia invaded on February 24 and was never able to return home to Ukraine to pick up any possessions or items of clothing.
“In some ways, she’s one of the lucky ones… Friends we know have spoken to people who are trying to get forms filled in on the Home Office website with bombs and planes and bullets flying around them.
“You want to help, you want to do something as lots of people are kind enough to do so too.
“But when you’re watching the scenes, when you’ve got a refugee crisis on this scale and a war in Europe… I’m not normally driven to political action or political comment but (I am) just incredibly frustrated by effectively looking like we’re the only country in Europe that’s not trying to help.”
Mr Hay also called the Homes for Ukraine scheme “inhumane”.
“It’s a very inhumane way we seem to be doing it,” he said.
“Things like child safety and child protection are important but it feels like they can be done in a connected, timely way, as opposed to ‘We’ve got to do everything and get it sorted before anything can happen’ which is just crazy for someone who’s still inside Ukraine.
“She’s lucky that she’s not… But for other people I think it’s probably the definition of insanity or madness or something close to both.
“There is (also) no process to find out where you are in the process, so in other words, it’s ‘Suck it up, live with it, and we’ll let you know when you either do or don’t get through.’”
Mr Hay, his wife and 14-year-old daughter plan to house the refugee indefinitely.
He said he believes the local council is supposed to check their house and make contact about a DBS check but he has not been given any indication of when that might take place.
“All you want is someone who is saying, ‘Look it’s taking between five and 10 days,’ or just something where you can manage her expectations or manage our expectations,” he explained.
“The overwhelming feeling is the Government wants to be seen to be doing something to help refugees, but the process is horrible.”
A Government spokesperson said: “We are moving as quickly as possible to ensure that those fleeing Ukraine can find safety in the UK through the Ukraine Family Scheme and Homes for Ukraine.”
“We have streamlined the process so valid passport holders do not have to attend in-person appointments before arriving in the UK, simplified our forms and boosted case worker numbers while ensuring vital security checks are carried out.
“We continue to speed up visa processing across both schemes, with 25,500 visas issued in the last three weeks alone and thousands more expected to come through these uncapped routes.”