The United Kingdom government launched an extended visa scheme that will allow more people from Ukraine to join their relatives in the UK. Other plans for refugees who don’t have any family ties in Britain are still to be announced.
The Home Office announced that it had increased its visa processing procedures in the area from 500 to 6000 a week which will speed up applications from people hoping to join their family in the UK. It also increased the number of times people will be allowed to reside in the UK from one to three years.
Meanwhile, the UN has reported that almost 1 million people have left Ukraine, and it is expected that 4 million more could flee the country amid the crisis. Refugee organisations request the government to speed up announcing a broader humanitarian scheme.
Officials have vowed that an “indefinite sponsorship route” will open very soon for Ukrainians without family ties here, allowing residents, local authorities and others to support those in need to come to the UK, but the details of how it will be done is still under process.
The British Red Cross accepted the family visa announcements but called for the UK government to permit people of Ukraine to travel here without a visa, “in line with the approach taken in the EU”, adding it was “important that people who don’t have family in the UK can get here safely too”.
Chief executive of the Refugee Council, Enver Solomon, said it was not yet apparent whether the schemes being created by the government would be the same as those which has been announced by the EU.
“Any refugee from Ukraine who wants to get to the UK should be able to do that through a secure and instantly accessible route. The most suitable way would be to give them humanitarian visas, to allow them to arrive as a refugee and be permitted to all the support that they need.”
The Ukraine family scheme will allow grandparents, parents, children, grandchildren and siblings of UK residents and people already settled in the UK to join relatives.
More than 250 British immigration attorneys have come together to offer pro-bono help to people applying for visas, CJ McKinney, coordinating the Ukraine Advice Project, said dozens of emailed requests for help were coming in every hour.
Priti Patel, Home Secretary, said that she personally visited Poland to look at the visa processing system of the UK on Friday, 4 March. She further added, “While we want individuals to be able to return to their residences at the end of this demonic invasion, giving hundreds of people a route to the UK is the right thing to do.”