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Alyth farm welcomes 36 Ukrainian refugees but visa delays leave 12 more stranded

The Marshall family (front) have welcomed 36 Ukrainian refugees to their farm in Alyth.
The Marshall family (front) have welcomed 36 Ukrainian refugees to their farm in Alyth.

Owners of a Perthshire farm have welcomed 36 refugees from Ukraine – with more desperately trying to reach safety there.

Muirton Farm in Alyth, owned by the Marshall family, has vacant caravans normally used by seasonal workers during the picking season.

They decided to open them up to families fleeing the Russian invasion in Ukraine and have already welcomed 36 people.

Another 12 are expected but are stuck in Ukraine and Italy due to problems securing visas for their children.

Tragedy

Jennifer Marshall led the efforts to open the farm to those fleeing the invasion.

She already knows some of the families as they were fruit pickers on the farm last year but says they are under no obligation to work during their stay.

Jennifer said: “It’s all pretty raw for them – there has been quite a lot of tragedy.

“We knew a lot of them from last year. They’re either someone who had worked for us or a friend or family member, or people they knew that needed help.

“They’re all related or friends, so it’s a really good community.”

The refugees are staying in caravans usually used by berry pickers.

One family, who Jennifer says are staying in “poor living conditions” in an abandoned hospital in Milan, are waiting on a visa for one of their children.

Another family is stranded in Mykolaiv in Ukraine.

Jennifer said: “They are under constant fire.

“We have no idea why it has taken so long for their children’s visas to come through.

“These people are fleeing war, so it’s a really sad situation trying to help them.

“The situation is awful.

“I’ve done what any human would have done.”

Jennifer Marshall has been helping people flee the war in Ukraine.

Jennifer says she was only able to navigate the complicated visa system because she has the help of a Russian speaker, who was able to communicate with the Ukrainians.

Now she hopes the people staying on the farm will regain a sense of normality after fleeing the war.

She added: “They don’t see themselves as refugees.

“They see themselves as people and something tragic has happened to them.

“A lot of them have their grandparents and parents still at home and I don’t know how they cope with that worry.

“They’ve fled war and managed to get here through very difficult means.

“They are just trying to rebuild their lives.”

The UK Home Office, which is responsible for issuing visas for the Homes for Ukraine sponsorship scheme, declined to comment without specific details about each of the refugees affected, including individual applicant reference numbers.

‘Unimaginable hardships’

Pete Wishart, SNP MP for Perth and North Perthshire, assisted the farm owners with the visa process.

He said: “It was my pleasure to visit Muirton Farm, where Jennifer and Rowan Marshall have been working tirelessly to ensure the 36 Ukrainian refugees they have sponsored are as comfortable, secure and supported as possible.

“From undertaking refurbishments, arranging English lessons and co-ordinating community support; to offering work on the farm or helping them find work elsewhere.”

alyth farm Ukrainian refugees
Perthshire MP Pete Wishart (front right) helped the refugees secure visas to stay on the farm.

He added: “Notwithstanding the unimaginable hardships these people have endured, there was a real feeling of comfort and gratitude for all that the Marshalls have been able to provide.

“Their efforts are a shining example of the people of Scotland’s readiness to welcome the people Ukraine with open arms, for as long as they wish to stay here.”

How the Highland Perthshire community is supporting Ukrainian refugees

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