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Authorities must lift visas and provide better welcome to people arriving in the UK from Ukraine, says British Red Cross

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British Red Cross
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The Red Cross is again calling for visa requirements to be temporarily lifted for Ukrainian refugees, removing unnecessary red tape and giving more people the chance to be welcomed in the UK.

The charity says complicated visa schemes have delayed or deterred many people from seeking safety in the UK and don’t reflect the generosity of the UK public who have donated millions and flocked to the Government website offering to host families in their own homes.

According to the UK Government’s own figures, as of 31 March, there is a backlog of 35,800 unresolved visa applications for the Ukraine Family and Ukraine Sponsorship Schemes (also known as the Homes for Ukraine Scheme).

A total of 24,400 people have successfully obtained visas on the Ukraine Family Scheme, with a further 4,700 Ukrainian Sponsorship Scheme visas granted. Only a small proportion are thought to have arrived in the UK.

The charity also says more must be done to tackle basic problems being faced by refugees who do make it here, ranging from problems accessing cash, to homelessness.

Working alongside local councils and airport staff, expert teams from the Red Cross have been in airports, stations and other transport hubs since March 19, providing welfare support and welcome packs with vital information in English, Ukrainian and Russian, about life in the UK and how to access further support, including emotional support and basic items like food, phones and SIM cards.

But the charity reveals:

  • The low numbers arriving mean its support in transport hubs has reduced, rather than ramped up. The charity says it has helped just over 200 people through this work.

  • Calls to its support line show people who have arrived are struggling to access cash, whilst waiting for Universal Credit to be set up.

  • The charity has had to refer some people to homelessness charities, local authorities and housing associations due toproblems gettingfunds or accommodation when they reach the UK. In a few cases the charity has funded short term accommodation itself as an emergency measure.

According to the UN, more than 4.2 million people have been forced to flee Ukraine to neighbouring countries, and another estimated 6.5 million people have been internally displaced. The British Red Cross says the humanitarian need is urgent which is why safe routes to other EU countries and the UK are essential right now.

Alex Fraser, Director of Refugee Support and Restoring Family Links, said:

“The whole process is taking far too long. Complicated visa schemes have delayed or deterred many people from seeking safety in the UK. That’s why we continue to urge the UK Government to temporarily lift visa requirements so more people can reach the UK quickly and safely.

“We’re also increasingly concerned about the access to information about support people are receiving when they arrive. We're seeing an increasing number of calls to our support line from Ukrainians struggling to get cash and housing, and British families desperate to help but being prevented by the system.

“In our view, the quickest way to help people right now is for the UK Government to stop the need for visas for those fleeing Ukraine, this would also bring the UK in line with a great many other countries who have been doing this since the start of the crisis. Security checks would still happen on arrival, but this would free up the capacity of the authorities to help people as they arrive, instead of wading through visa applications.”


**Notes to Editors **

The British Red Cross is the largest independent provider of support to refugees and people seeking asylum in the UK. Last year, the charity worked with around 29,000 people at all stages of the asylum process.

For over 150 years, the British Red Cross has helped people in crisis, whoever and wherever they are. We are part of a global voluntary network, responding to conflicts, natural disasters and individual emergencies. We enable vulnerable people in the UK and abroad to prepare for and withstand emergencies in their own communities. And when the crisis is over, we help them recover and move on with their lives.