Monthly column: Unacceptable delays in refugees’ visa applications

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Mohammad Yasin MP in the House of Commons
Mohammad Yasin MP in the House of Commons (photo taken prior to lockdown restrictions)

Many of you have contacted me regarding Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine, and how you can best support those who are vulnerable.

I am incredibly proud and thankful of my constituents generosity and kindness. Many of those in Bedford and Kempston have welcomed refugees with open arms by sponsoring individuals on the Homes for Ukraine Scheme, and countless others have donated their money, time, and resources to provide for Ukrainians in need – both here and abroad.

Meanwhile, my staff and I have been working tirelessly, raising cases with the Home Office for Ukrainian visa applicants who are waiting to know if they can reach safety.

Many applicants are facing unacceptable delays in hearing back from the Home Office, with most waiting weeks – left in the dark, vulnerable in third countries and uncertain of what their next move may be.

These delays are the direct result of the Government failing to prepare or streamline the application process.

Some individuals are having their application accepted but are unfairly held up by not yet receiving ‘permission to travel’ letters. Others are simply stuck in limbo, having submitted their application but hearing nothing further. Even caseworkers in my office are struggling to contact the Home Office, on hold for hours when trying to get through on the phone.

Whilst we have had successes, it is impossible to imagine vulnerable applicants in Ukraine, Poland or Romania being able to wait hours on the phone, or weeks for an email. The Government’s lack of preparation has left people stranded, in crisis.

It is appalling that – once again – the Government has not taken the necessary steps to recruit, train and deploy staff to meet the demand.

Despite this, the Government is loudly shouting its successes, proclaiming the scheme to be “one of the fastest and largest visa programmes in UK history”. The experience of applicants, sponsors, and even my own office, says otherwise.

I recently submitted a written question to the Secretary of State for the Home Office on this issue, querying what steps are being taken to cut down on the processing time.

I am yet to receive a response, but, in the meantime, please do reach out to my office if you are in need of assistance; whether that is waiting to hear back on an application under the Family Visa Scheme, or if you are sponsoring a Homes for Ukraine application.

There is a myriad of other substantial issues that need to be addressed.

Whilst, under the Homes for Ukraine Scheme, Local Authorities and sponsors will receive funding, families that will be housing their relatives under the Family Visa Scheme will receive no such support – and neither will Councils.

Local Authorities need to be able to access funding to support, integrate, and provide services for all Ukrainians in need, regardless of their visa type.

Many families will struggle financially to provide for additional relatives, whether that is offering bedding or food, amidst escalating costs. I have written to the Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities on this very issue, and I await a response.

There is not, however, room to feel exasperated.

We must continue pushing forward; chasing up the Home Office, standing in solidarity with Ukraine, and vitally always holding the Government to account for their failures. I can assure you I will continue to do exactly that.

This is a monthly guest column provided by
Mohammad Yasin, Labour MP for Bedford & Kempston.
It is published unedited and does not reflect the views of the Bedford Independent.

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