U.K. Visas An “Administrative War Crime”

8 April 2022

Boiler checks and the number of rooms take precedence over getting civilians out of a war zone, our investigation finds.

More evidence is emerging of Ukrainian war refugees being held back by the U.K. Government’s visa process, according to Positive Action in Housing, a Glasgow based refugee charity which is helping 759 Ukrainian refugee families trying to reach the U.K. and Ireland.

A 34 year old woman trying to escape alone from the dangerous Donbas region has told Positive Action in Housing that the Visa Processing centre told her to provide a translated marriage certificate with a Ukrainian Government certified stamp on it. 

Anna* , an English teacher, said:

“I applied to go to Scotland under the U.K. Government Community Sponsorship scheme. The visa processing centre then called me about the documents I submitted. They told me to send my marriage certificate translated into English and certified with an official stamp. I couldn't provide it because of the war. 

“I'm from Donbass, my hometown was occupied by Russia in 2014 and now they have come back again. They are killing people, using weapons. I moved slowly from town to town in search of a place to stay. My husband is a journalist, he stayed behind in the war, my mother is a nurse, she stayed behind too to help our country. 

“I provided a biometric passport and bank card history showing transactions in Slovyansk city, Ukraine. Actually I was shocked, as if the U.K. doesn’t want us to come. How do I prove that I lived and worked in Ukraine during the war? I am a woman completely alone, I hid in a basement for days to hide from bombs, and the U.K. Government is telling me to leave this place and find a company to translate my marriage certificate and certify it with an official stamp. How do you do that in a war? I thought I failed my visa application. I thought I had failed.” 

Working with volunteers in Ukraine, Scotland and Ireland, Positive Action in Housing helped Anna to find a safe route to the border, from where Volunteers helped her and seven others to travel from Warsaw to Dublin.

The group arrived last night. Anna is staying with a couple. The seven others are staying in Athlone in the home of a Room for Refugees volunteer host.

Robina Qureshi, Director of Positive Action in Housing, a refugee homelessness charity, which pioneered Room for Refugees, the oldest and longest established refugee hosting programme in the U.K. said:

"The contempt with which the U.K. Government is treating Ukrainians fleeing war should be obvious by now.

“It is the only country in Europe or Scandinavia to block Ukrainians entering as refugees, which is their human right and enshrined within the refugee convention.

“Anyone who thinks Ukrainian refugees are being given special treatment should think again.

“The U.K. government is trying to fool people into think it’s doing something when in fact it’s doing precisely nothing. A smokescreen. It has singularly breached the refugee convention which this country is a signatory to by imposing visas on war refugees. There needs to be repercussions.  

“We are tracking the progress of over seven hundred and fifty families. As of today, two people out of 750 families have received visas. Both are single people. Technically, they can travel. A handful of people have been given U.K. visas. 3-year olds or 5-year olds have been given visas. Or one member of a family got a visa. But whole families have not received visas. This means no one in their family can travel. They are being systematically held back by the U.K. Visas programme. 

“More and more people who waited in good faith in their apartments in Ukraine  for a U.K. visa are now in grave danger of being killed because of the escalating war in Ukraine. It is arguably a  war crime and someone in government is answerable for it. They may not have done the killing physically, but they are doing it administratively, by forcing women, children and babies inside Ukraine to wait for their illusive UK visa inside war zones.

“The U.K. route is unsafe for anyone living in a danger zone inside Ukraine. The only safe route we can identify is to Ireland where refugees can travel visa free, with expired passports, internal passports and even birth certificates. The Irish, by their humanity, to first remove humans from a place of danger, put the U.K. to shame. 

“The U.K. Government is clearly frustrating attempts by Ukrainians to find a safe route here. They are putting up blocks to delay their travel. This has put in further danger the lives of people who do not have the luxury of waiting. Instead they continue to mount a smokescreen, throwing money at pointless initiatives, when they should immediately lift visa restrictions, have U.K. officials in the ports and stations at bordering countries to help people - especially women, children and unaccompanied minors - to reach the U.K. safely. 

“ We are shocked but not surprised at the low numbers of people applying for Scotland’s super sponsor route. Only 40 visas have been granted under the Scotland super sponsorship route according to the latest U.K. government’s transparency data (see link below). 12.5K visas have been granted in the U.K. This is an abysmally low figure compared to the rest of Europe, and there still remains the problem that these visas have been distributed in a scattergun approach, so no one in a family can travel if everyone in that family doesn’t get a visa. The U.K. government is focussed on boiler service checks and the number of room sizes while people die in war zones. They are playing a game with the media until they lose interest. They are hoodwinking 200,000 people who expressed a goodwill. Our work for now is to focus on the Ireland route and ask volunteers in Ireland to offer up their spare rooms and homes and register immediately with so that we can help save more lives”.

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