Ukrainian mother with cancer unable to join son in UK despite having visa due to ‘bureaucratic nightmare’

Exclusive: Rodion Liashko is desperate to bring his parents to join him in Britain, but ‘no one wants to take responsibility’ for arranging the transfer of his bedbound mother

May Bulman
Social Affairs Correspondent
Monday 09 May 2022 17:54
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<p>Oleksandr and Tetiano Liashko, who fled their home in Ukraine, have been waiting for weeks to join their son in the east of England</p>

Oleksandr and Tetiano Liashko, who fled their home in Ukraine, have been waiting for weeks to join their son in the east of England

A Ukrainian refugee who is bedbound with lung cancer has been unable to join her son in the UK despite having been issued a family visa weeks ago due to a “bureaucratic nightmare”.

Rodion Liashko, 37, has been trying to arrange for his mother, 59-year-old Tetiana Liashko, who requires constant oxygen supply, to be transferred to Britain for more than a month, but has found that “no one wants to take responsibility” for the situation.

Ms Liashko and her husband Oleksandr, 62, were granted visas under the Ukraine Family Scheme six weeks ago, at which point their son started trying to arrange for them to be flown to the UK and his mother immediately taken to a local hospital.

But on contacting the local NHS services, he said he has been constantly referred onto other agencies, none of which have been able to assist him.

His parents are among more than 36,300 Ukrainians who have been issued visas have so far been issued to refugees under the family scheme, which allows those who have fled the war to join relatives who are based in Britain.

All Ukrainians arriving under the scheme have access NHS healthcare free of charge. However, it is not clear how they can be brought to the UK can take place if a refugee is bedbound, and Mr Liashko has been unable to get this question answered.

Tetiana Liashko, 59, has lung cancer and requires constant oxygen supply

“People want to help, but at the same time they don’t really do anything. After at least four weeks of continuously contacting different people, I haven’t got anywhere,” said Mr Liashko, who works for a logistics company and lives in Huntingdon, near Peterborough.

“It’s like no one wants to take responsibility for this. There seems to be a discrepancy between what is declared about assisting the Ukrainian people and what is happening.”

Mr Liashko said he contacted the local hospital, from where he was referred to the Patient Advice and Liaison Service (PALS), and then to Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG).

He wrote to the CCG and initially received no reply, at which point he contacted his MP, Shailesh Vara, who wrote to the CCG, and at that stage he received a response.

“The response from CCG was very generic – a copy and paste about how amazing Britain is, how they’re dedicated to helping the Ukrainians. I’m not an idiot. I wouldn’t be escalating the situation if I had been able to get the help from a website,” Mr Liashko said.

Without help from the UK health service, the only option for the family is to pay £20,000 for specialised medical transport, which the 37-year-old said they “simply don’t have”.

The CCG contacted Mr Lyaksho late last week a promised it would urgently look into the matter, but there is still no clarity on how or when his parents will get to the UK.

Mr Liashko and his parents were becoming increasingly concerned about their safety in the southern Ukrainian city of Odessa, so two weeks ago they decided to dip into their savings to pay for a private ambulance to travel to the city of Iasi in Romania.

His mother is currently being treated in a Romanian hospital and her husband is living in a refugee centre, visiting her every day.

“The Romanians are trying to help, but for my parents Romania has never been a destination. It’s like a transit point. They have no family there, they don’t speak the language. It’s very alien. They have never been there, they have no one there,” said Mr Liashko.

“They lost their savings. They have their flat in Odesa, but they also had their savings in the form of a house in Mariupol, which is completely destroyed by the Russians. They literally took a couple of suitcases with them. I’m here and ready to take them in.

“It’s fine when you’re young and fit and you can travel, but unfortunately my mother is not fit, and it seems to be very complicated for her. It shouldn’t be this way.”

He added: “I didn’t expect people to refuse to take responsibility. It’s a bureaucratic nightmare. The procedures they have don’t describe this specific situation, and therefore no one wants to do anything.”

Mr Liashko’s MP Mr Vara, the Conservative MP for North West Cambridgeshire, told The Independent he was in “urgent contact with all concerned to quickly bring this matter to a satisfactory conclusion”.

He added: “Ms Liashko is seriously ill and clinicians in the UK and Romania are in contact to ensure the best way for her to be safely brought direct to a UK hospital.”

A government spokesperson said: “The UK government has stood shoulder to shoulder with Ukraine and provided them with the lifesaving medical supplies and equipment they need.

“Every arrival is reviewed on a case by case basis.”

The Cambridgeshire and Peterborough CCG has been approached for comment.

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