Refugees are giving up on UK’s visa scheme and returning to war zone after weeks of delays

Refugees are giving up on the UK’s Homes for Ukraine scheme and returning to the war zone after running out of money and patience as they wait weeks for their visa applications to be approved.

Ukrainians who fled the war and applied to come to the UK have also begun turning to alternative countries for help, including one who traveled to Australia instead after her UK visa application was beset with delays.

Others are considering applying for visas in Germany, Ireland and Canada where they believe the process will be simpler.

Julia Rigg, a British woman who had applied to host a mother and her two daughters at her home in Derbyshire, told in the family were considering alternatives after not receiving a decision almost three weeks after they submitted their applications.

Ms Rigg said: “They have run out of money and have a grandmother back in Ukraine who has become ill. Mum is thinking of returning to Ukraine to be with her mother.

“Meanwhile, the girls are thinking of registering as refugees in Germany so that they can work or claim benefits. I’m not sure how that might affect their application in the UK. ”

Ms Rigg added: “Two of them never got confirmation that their application had been received and the other one they somehow lost the documents. We had to do fresh applications.

“The whole system is set up to make it as difficult as possible for people to actually get here.”

Rachel Gilmore and her husband, Martin, have not received a decision on visa applications for the Ukrainian family they hope to host (Photo: Supplied)
The room Homes for Ukraine sponsor Rachel Gilmore has prepared for Ukrainian refugees remains empty (Photo: Supplied)

That sentiment is increasingly common among hosts and refugees and figures show that up to 7 April, 9,102 shows under the Homes for Ukraine scheme have been issued in England.

Just 1,200 people have arrived in the UK via the scheme, figures published on Friday by the Department for Leveling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) show.

Ania Walkowiak-Smith had banded together with neighbors to host a family of seven from Kryvij Rog. The family traveled to Warsaw via Lviv on 18 March, the same day they applied for visas.

Ms Walkowiak-Smith said: “The tensions started to grow and after more than a week the 23-year-old packed her stuff and took her two kids back to Ukraine.”

Ms Walkowiak-Smith said the remaining four family members ask her daily for updates and cannot understand why the process is “taking so long”.

She added: “It is heartbreaking to hear that they want to go back. So far I’ve managed to calm them down, however, I have run out of options what I can do here in the UK or say to them.

“I think the fact that they are planning to go back to the war zone speaks volumes.”

Daria Matsuk is still waiting on a decision on her visa application (Photo: Supplied)

Daria Matsuk, 25, who left her home in Zaporizhzhia and is staying in a hotel in Bulgaria, said she was looking into other arrangements because of the hold ups, despite having found a sponsor in Birmingham.

Ms Matsuk said: “I’m considering trying other countries, maybe Canada or Ireland. I did consider giving up. I guess that’s what the UK Government wants. I’ve seen lots of people offering houses again because their sponsors decided to go elsewhere. ”

Ms Matsuk, who is paying 20 leva (£ 8.54) per night for accommodation, said she will probably wait around a week longer before seeking refuge in Bulgaria or moving again.

Jane Wearing, from Ilkley, West Yorkshire, told in one Ukrainian 20-year-old woman she was sponsoring gave up on the UK scheme and traveled elsewhere after no decision was received on her visa application.

Ms Wearing said: “I applied for two shows on 18 March. It’s taken so long that one of the ladies I was hoping to sponsor has made a separate application to Australia and in fact flew out two days ago. ”

Homes for Ukraine sponsor Pennie Ellis said she was “absolutely livid” about the delays (Photo: Supplied)

Pennie Ellis said the 28-year-old mother, her six-year-old daughter and 49-year-old mother, she is sponsoring would have to leave their accommodation in Berlin on Friday.

Ms Ellis said: “They have very little money but I managed to find an incredibly generous benefactor who has paid for them to stay in a hotel for a week. After that… who knows? ”

Rachel Gilmore, an occupational therapist from Manchester, said she felt the scheme was “beginning to look like one big PR exercise”.

Ms Gilmore and her husband, Martin, are sponsoring Olga, 46, and her two daughters, aged 19 and 14.

The family, who fled from Kyiv, have been staying in Calais for a week after traveling to the port via Hungary, Budapest and Munich.

“They are getting frustrated and fed up. I know they are safe, however, the trauma of knowing the atrocities that have happened and their husband and father still there is frightening for them. ”

Ms Gilmore said the scheme “seems a process set up to fail”.

A Government spokesperson told in: “Applications are normally processed in date order from when applicant documents are uploaded. The Home Office is aware some applicants have been waiting nearly three weeks for their applications to be progressed or an outcome to be communicated.

“We acknowledge that this is unacceptable and we are working to resolve this and continue to speed up the processing of applications.”

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