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Dundee host says Ukrainian refugees faced homelessness due to Home Office error

Ukrainian refugees home office
Dundee host Nicola Barton with her daughter Isla, and Ukrainian refugees Taras and mum Ruslana.

A Ukrainian mum and her son are on their way to safety in Dundee after facing homelessness due to a six-week visa delay.

Ruslana Perekhodko, 34, and 11-year-old son Taras have been on an “emotional rollercoaster” after they held off leaving war-torn Ukraine for weeks while they waited for their travel paperwork.

Nicola Barton, 47, arranged to host the refugees in her Dundee home as part of the Homes for Ukraine scheme to help people fleeing the Russian invasion.

Their visas were granted more than two weeks ago – but incorrect paperwork was issued for Taras, meaning they could not travel to the UK.

The pair only had until Saturday to vacate their temporary accommodation in Wroclaw, Poland.

Now they have been allowed to fly to Edinburgh and finalise the paperwork on arrival.

‘The system has failed them’

Nicola said: “The situation was desperate.

“The son was really struggling. If he was here, he could be at school and it’s so frustrating.

“I just feel like as a host I have let them down and the system has failed them and I can do nothing.

“They’re really relying on us.

“It’s a safeguarding issue as well, if they became homeless because of this.”

Taras did not have a passport when the conflict broke out in Ukraine.

They were advised by the Ukrainian government that his passport would come by April 15, but it did not arrive.

Nicola says the family regularly heard air sirens from their home in Rivne, Ukraine as missiles flew overhead and the military attempted to shoot them down.

Ukrainian son Taras and mum Ruslana faced homelessness before finally being granted a visa to come to Dundee.

The two fled to the nearest embassy in Poland and attended an appointment for Taras’ biometric paper passport on April 19 in Warsaw.

They later collected their Permission to Travel letters – which are only issued if you have a full EU passport – but as Taras does not yet have a passport, the letter was not valid.

The family were staying in Wroclaw, a four-hour journey away from Warsaw where the travel paperwork is issued.

Dundee host Nicola says two hours after the Home Office was contacted by The Courier, they confirmed Taras’ passport will be printed.

On Thursday – just two days before they were due to be removed from their accommodation – an airline allowed the pair to travel to the UK using just Ruslana’s passport.

‘Emotional rollercoaster’

Nicola said: “This would have saved people so much heartache, to just allow children to travel on their mother’s passport instead having to travel to the nearest embassy outwith Ukraine.

“They’ve been waiting weeks and weeks.

“It’s absolutely needless – it has been an emotional rollercoaster.

“I just could not believe it was happening.”

The Home Office has been criticised for the long waiting times for those seeking to escape the warzone in Ukraine.

The application process for hosting refugees has been slammed as overly complicated and has taken some upwards of 11 hours to fill out.

Dundee East MP Stewart Hosie.

Dundee East MP Stewart Hosie has been assisting Nicola with the situation.

He said: “One would have thought the easiest thing to do would have been to allow the family to travel to the UK from a warzone and sort the paperwork out when they arrive.

“I queued for an hour at the Home Office drop-in centre in parliament on Tuesday where I was advised the travel documents had not been printed yet, but they would chase this up with urgency.”

Home Secretary Priti Patel is facing mass legal action from Ukrainians stuck in the visa backlog.

A Home Office spokesperson said: “In response to Putin’s barbaric invasion we launched one of the fastest and biggest visa schemes in UK history. Over 95,500 visas have been issued so Ukrainians can live and work in the UK.

“The changes the Home Office has made to streamline the visa system, including simplifying the forms and boosting staff numbers, are working and we are now processing visas as quickly as they come in – enabling thousands more Ukrainians to come through our uncapped routes.”

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