Just one in seven applicants has made it to the UK to date
Home secretary Priti Patel has apologised for “frustrating” delays in providing visas to Ukrainian refugees, with documents being issued to only half of those who have applied so far – of whom just one in seven have made it to the UK.
In recent years, the Home Office has had well-documented problems with immigration data and systems; ministers have frequently admitted to information being held only on paper or in inaccessible systems, as the number of asylum applications awaiting processing has snowballed to unprecedented levels.
Since the start of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the department has faced criticism for the lack of data published on the number of visas being issued.
Information released on Friday revealed that 79,800 applications had been received, with 40,900 visas granted so far. Only 12,000 have arrived in the country to date. A total of 43,600 applicants have come via the Homes for Ukraine programme, which allows members of the public to volunteer as ‘sponsors’ and provide a home for new arrivals.
Patel has apologised for what she characterised as the “frustrating” delays in providing travel documents, while refugees minister Lord Harrington said “not enough” people have been granted entry so far.
Of these that have been issued with a visa, the number authorised to travel to Scotland is now 566. Of these, 40 have been approved under the Scottish Government’s super-sponsor scheme, which relies on clearance by the Home Office.
Scottish government first minister Nicola Sturgeon has called for “real progress” in speeding the process up and Labour shadow home secretary, Yvette Cooper, said the low approval numbers are “scandalous and shameful”.
Gary Christie of the Scottish Refugee Council said of Patel’s apology that “apologies alone do not bring people to safety” and called the scale of progress so far “woeful”.
“In continuing to insist on operating a visa scheme for people fleeing this dreadful conflict, the UK is an international outlier,” he added. “Ireland has brought in a visa waiver and the EU enacted a temporary protection directive to allow people to be brought to safety first and paperwork to be considered later. This is not the time for sluggish bureaucracy.”