Charity's fears for more than 300 Ukraine refugees still waiting to find sanctuary in Northamptonshire

Nearly 1,000 applications from sponsors yet only 500 have made it here so far

Friday, 20th May 2022, 1:50 pm

More than 300 Ukrainian refugees told they can stay with hosts in Northamptonshire have yet to reach the UK, according to latest figures.

The Ukraine Sponsorship Scheme, also known as Homes for Ukraine, allows volunteers to house refugees fleeing the Russian invasion.

Sponsors offer accommodation for at least six months with refugees allowed to live, work and study in the UK for up to three years.

Hundreds are stuck in the war-torn Ukraine despite having visas allowing them to seek sanctuary in Northamptonshire

But Home Office data from Tuesday (May 17) shows 816 visas have been granted across Northamptonshire out of 946 applications — yet just 506 of those refugees had so far made it to the UK.

In West Northamptonshire, just 292 of the 486 refugees given visas out of 570 applications were already in the country.

In North Northamptonshire, where 330 visas have been granted to stay with hosts from 376 applications, just 214 of these refugees were already in the country.

That at least, is an increase from figures of 379 who had arrived in the county by May 3.

The United Nations estimates nearly 13 million people have been displaced in Ukraine since Russian president Vladimir Putin ordered an invasion on February 24 but more than eight million of those remain in the war-torn country

The Refugee Council says it has received reports of delays at every stage of the application process and necessary documents not reaching refugees quick enough for them to travel.

Head of advocacy at the charity, Andy Hewett, called the scheme "unfit for purpose."

He said: “Responding to a serious humanitarian crisis by offering complex visa routes, putting paperwork and bureaucracy before people was always going to have tragic consequences."

Some families are also not having their applications processed together creating difficulties when not all visas are granted at the same time.

Others have flagged the potential for safeguarding issues from a lack of thorough checks on prospective sponsors, and there have been national reports of refugees becoming homeless after being turfed out by their hosts.

Refugees have also been arriving through the Ukraine Family Scheme, which allows Ukrainian nationals to join family members in the UK.

Across the UK, 107,400 visas had been issued to Ukrainian refugees through both schemes as of Tuesday, with 53,800 arriving in the UK by Monday.

The Government warned the data is likely to contain some duplicate records while around two percent of sponsors could not be assigned to a local area.

The number of successful applications has increased compared to last month. As of April 19, 71,800 applications had been granted through both schemes – including 245 in West Northamptonshire and 189 in the North – and 21,600 had arrived in the UK as of the day before.

The Home Office said some refugees are choosing to stay put or travel elsewhere, which may explain some of the gap between arrivals and the number of visas granted.

A spokesperson called it "one of the fastest and biggest visa schemes in UK history" adding they are now “processing visas as fast as quickly as they come in” as a result of changes to the application system.

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