‘We feel powerless’: The Ukrainian refugees unable to join loved ones in Britain under Home Office scheme

‘We have a warm house for them. We love them. Why should they be somewhere else?’ asks Tetiana Bykova, Ukrainian who is unable to bring her cousin’s wife and three-year-old to live with her in Glasgow

May Bulman
Social Affairs Correspondent
Wednesday 02 March 2022 09:08
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<p>Glasgow resident Tetiana Bykova (right) wishes to bring her cousin’s wife and child (middle) to the UK after they fled Ukraine, but they are not eligible</p>

Glasgow resident Tetiana Bykova (right) wishes to bring her cousin’s wife and child (middle) to the UK after they fled Ukraine, but they are not eligible

Ukrainian and British nationals living in the UK have said they are “frustrated” after it emerged that their loved ones who have fled Ukraine are likely to be excluded from the UK’s bespoke humanitarian route.

The Home Office announced on Tuesday that it was expanding the route to include parents, grandparents, adult children and siblings of British nationals and people settled in the UK. They also said a new sponsorship scheme was being established to help people fleeing the Russia invasion.

Home secretary Priti Patel said the offer was in the “best interests” of Ukrainian people and would see thousands of refugees welcomed to the UK, with normal requirements for salary and language tests waived.

However, campaigners warn that it still excludes swathes of refugees who would benefit from coming to the UK, such as partners or cousins of British nationals, or close relatives of people in Britain on work or study visas.

The Independent has set up a petition calling on the UK government to be at the forefront of the international community offering aid and support to those in Ukraine. To sign the petition click here.

Lawyers and charities are also concerned about delays in the sponsorship route, as the UK’s general sponsorship scheme has helped only around 500 people to resettle over a period of five years.

Ms Patel has so far resisted calls to temporarily waive visas for all Ukrainians entering the UK and carry out security checks on British soil, insisting it would undermine “the strongest security advice”.

Tetiana Bykova, a Ukrainian national living in Glasgow, said she was hoping to bring her cousin’s wife Julia and three-year-old daughter Miroslava – who recently managed to escape from Ukraine to the Czech Republic – to live with her in the UK, but that the current family route did not allow for that.

Ms Bykova (right) with her cousin Roman (left), who has stayed in Ukraine to fight, his wife Julia and their child Miroslava (middle), who fled to the Czech Republic

Ms Bykova said she and her British husband wished to accommodate and support them while her cousin, Roman, stayed in Ukraine to fight Russian forces, but that due to the visa rules they were having to try to support them from afar.

“My cousin was like a brother to me. We want to help his wife and child. We have a warm house for them. We love them. Why should they be somewhere else? Along with financial support, we can give them moral support, because they’re so scared,” she said.

“I’ve recently had a baby so my husband is taking time out of job as a doctor to fly to the Czech Republic on Thursday. We’re going to have to help them sort accommodation. We’ll be going through all these complications when they could just be here with us.”

Ms Bykova added: “I’ve been through the UK immigration system myself and had a lot of difficulties, but come on, this is war. The UK is a wealthy country. Other European countries responded so much better to this. It’s disappointing. The UK hasn’t even done the minimum.”

In another case, Andrii Zharikov, a Ukrainian-born lecturer at the University of Portsmouth who has been in the UK for six years and is on a work visa, is trying to arrange for his younger sister Anna-Maria, 19, to join him after she fled Ukraine on Monday.

Mr Zharikov (left) with his sister, who has fled Ukraine, and parents, who remain in the country

But the 30-year-old told The Independent his sister cannot benefit from the extension of the family scheme due to the fact that, although he is a taxpaying British resident, he is not considered “settled” in the UK because he is on a work visa.

He said he hoped she might be able to come on the sponsor route, but that this would require finding a British national to sponsor her.

“It’s not ideal. I’ll need to ask friends who are prepared to do this. I haven’t been able to find any information on what the requirements are. The government website hasn’t changed, so it’s still all a bit unclear,” he said.

Responding to Ms Patel’s claim that allowing Ukrainian refugees to enter without visas would undermine security advice, Mr Zharikov added: “It’s frustrating to hear statements like this because I’m sure the UK authorities know that the only people able to leave Ukraine are the elderly, women and children.”

In a further case, Peter Baron, 65, said he felt “powerless” because he is unable to bring his Ukrainian partner of four years to join him in the UK, as unmarried partners who haven’t been living together do not fall under the scheme.

Peter Baron (left) and his Ukrainian partner Nina

The Chichester resident, whose partner Nina, 41, is currently sleeping on the floor of a friend’s apartment in Istanbul, said: “I’m shocked by the whole process. It’s like they haven’t thought anything through. I’ve had sleepless nights trying to work out what the hell to do.

“We’re powerless because we have a government that has no understanding whatsoever of the situation people are in, no idea of the suffering that is happening.”

Mr Baron added: “To say they aren’t waiving visas for ‘security reasons’ is the most appalling non-excuse I’ve heard in my life. These are women and children. Why don’t we do what Ireland does – let them get on a plane, arrive and then do the security check.”

The Independent is also raising money for the people of Ukraine – if you would like to donate then please click here for our GoFundMe page.

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