Northamptonshire family criticises government's 'shambles' visa scheme after four-week delays to safely house Ukrainian refugees

"Most of us are waiting four to five weeks, meanwhile, some of the refugees are actually dying, or they can't wait any longer”

By Logan MacLeod
Thursday, 21st April 2022, 5:06 pm

A Northamptonshire family has called central government's scheme to urgently house Ukrainian refugees “atrocious” with “horrific” consequences after waiting weeks for visas to be approved.

The Homes for Ukraine scheme, launched in mid-March, allows individuals, charities, community groups and businesses in the UK to bring Ukrainians to safety.

On March 23, Mick and Sam Parker, from Earls Barton, applied to house a Ukrainian family via this scheme.

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Four weeks later they are still waiting for the government to approve visas for the 37-year-old Ukrainian mother and her two children (aged 10 and 13) to enter the UK.

Mick and Sam have criticised the government as “incompetent”, the scheme a “shambles” and have estimated that thousands of good Samaritan homeowners are in the same position.

"You would not imagine this could be happening. I'm not exaggerating, it is atrocious. It's that incompetent it has to be deliberate," Mick said.

"There are thousands like us that are opening our homes and experiencing delays. Most of us are waiting four to five weeks, meanwhile, some of the refugees are actually dying, or they can't wait any longer and have to go back into a warzone. It is horrific.

Mick, Sam and Sophie in their guest bedroom at their home in Earls Barton.

"The family we are taking in have been bombed out of their first home and are being pushed out of their second one.

"Everyday we are sending emails and messages to MPs and embassies and we can't do anything until we get these visas and right to travel."

Sam echoed her husband's thoughts.

The 53-year-old said: "Our refugee family are about to lose their accommodation in Ukraine and hence will be extremely vulnerable. We have waited nearly a month for visas. The system seems deliberately designed to put people off coming here.

"The whole visa process is a shambles. There are a whole bunch of applications which seem to have got stuck or gone missing or being held up between March 18 and March 24.

"We think something has gone wrong but nobody is prepared to admit it and nobody is prepared to do something about it.

"We're just normal people, with a normal house, with a couple of spare bedrooms. We thought we could offer somebody a refuge, a space to get away from the war.

"We just wanted to offer a hand of friendship but we are being let down."

Just after this newspaper got in touch with Chris Heaton Harris – MP for Daventry – and the government via email, Sam said she has heard from the MP who said one application has now been “expedited” and the other two have “already been approved”.

A government spokesman said: “Thanks to the generosity of the public who have offered their homes to Ukrainians fleeing the war and through our Ukraine Family Scheme, more than 71,800 visas have been granted with 21,600 Ukrainians arriving safely in the UK.

“We are processing thousands of visas a day – this shows the changes we made to streamline the service are working and we’ll continue to build on this success so we can speed up the process even further.”

This newspaper is waiting on an official reply from Mr Heaton Harris.