Ukrainian refugees still being told to 'wait a week for UK visa appointments', says Yvette Cooper

ITV News' Chloe Keedy reports from Calais, where Ukrainian refugees await UK visas

Ukrainian refugees hoping to enter the UK are being told to wait a whole week before they can have an appointment to apply for a British visa, Labour's shadow home secretary has said.

Yvette Cooper attacked the government's response to the refugee crisis - sparked by Russia's invasion of Ukraine - after it was revealed that just 500 visas had been granted out of 10,000 submitted applications.

She said there are 600 people in Calais "right now who have been turned back and are being told to go to Brussels where the visa centre is only open three times a week, or Paris where people are still being told the next appointment is March 15 - a week away".

People are also still being told the next appointment is a week away in Warsaw in Poland, the Labour frontbencher said, and in Rzeszów the booking system "seems to have completely broken down - this morning they're sending people away".

She urged the government to "urgently set up emergency visa centres at all major travel points, do security checks on the spot and then issue emergency visas for Ukrainians".

Home Office minister Kevin Foster, responding, said a pop-up visa application centre was being set up in Lille to help the hundreds of people who have been arriving at Calais - 75 miles away.

Mr Foster said the new centre was being set up more than an hour away because people had been "presenting themselves at Calais port pretending to be Ukrainian".

He said "The (Ukraine family) scheme went live last Friday and has already seen over 10,000 applications submitted, of which over 500 visas have been issued with more being issued as we speak."

News of the new visa centre in northern France came after the govenment was branded "cruel and chaotic" by Labour MP Diane Abbott.

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace earlier said the UK is "determined" to improve the system for processing Ukrainian refugees - but many Twitter users said a visa centre being set up around 75 miles away from Calais would not help Ukrainians there who have no access to transport.

Ms Abbott said "it cannot be right that there is no visa application centre in Calais and Ukrainian refugees who travel thousands of miles to Calais are being redirected to either Paris or Brussels. Does the Foreign Secretary agree that this brings the UK into disrepute?"

The Home Office gave an update on visa applications on Monday night after coming under intense criticism over the weekend for only having issued "around 50" visas in the first 48 hours of the family scheme.

Under that scheme, anyone with parents, grandparents, children and siblings already in the UK are allowed to stay for up to three years - it has been estimated that will allow around 200,000 Ukrainians to seek sanctuary.

But more than two million Ukrainians have fled their country west into Europe after Vladimir Putin's invasion, which has seen thousands die amid Russian bombing in several cities.

The number of refugees entering Europe has already surpassed the estimated one million Syrians who fled their country amid the refugee crisis of 2015.

And its been estimated the number of Ukrainians moving into Europe could quickly reach four million if the invasion and refugee numbers continue to progress at the rate they are.

Thousands are trapped in besieged cities and desperate efforts to escape are being repeatedly thwarted by continuous Russian shelling.

Multiple attempts have been made to allow civilians safe passage out of Ukrainian cities under attack - but Russian forces have reportedly broken every ceasefire, with claims forces have even targeted those trying to flee.

A member of Ukraine's legal team at the International Court of Justice said Russia "is resorting to tactics reminiscent of medieval siege warfare, encircling cities, cutting off escape routes and pounding the civilian population with heavy ordnance".

How far will Putin go and what can the West do to stop him?

A No 10 spokesman said the centre was "en route to Calais" and "the Home Office are working quickly to set it up and we expect it to be set up in the coming days".

Asked why it was not being set up in Calais, where Ukrainians had already gathered, the spokesman said: "We obviously want to make sure that we can provide the appropriate level of support that those who are seeking to enter the UK require.

"Obviously the Home Office and Border Force are best placed to make a call on where that would be best based to help support those people who are making their way through France."

Asked what Ukrainians already in Calais should do, the spokesman said the new application centre would be set up shortly, "there is a helpline in place" and "facilities and staff in neighbouring countries to Ukraine".

Mr Wallace said refugee processing was the responsibility of Home Secretary Priti Patel but he would be providing defence officials to help "speed up" the system.

"In order to mitigate the delay problem we've put already a pop up visa centre in a town close to the Polish and Ukrainian border so we can process people closer to where they arrive. Hopefully we'll do more of that.

"I am sure that the home secretary is determined to cut the processing time. The MoD will lean in and offer her whatever help she needs."

Labour said the numbers being admitted are "shockingly low", while senior Tory MP Simon Hoare said it is "simply not good enough".

"The Home Office needs to move today from pettifogging process to active delivery. Stop 'computer says no' mindset and get on and help," he tweeted.

Meanwhile Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is set to deliver a "historic address" to the House of Commons after Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle approved a request for him to speak directly to MPs.

He is expected to use his speech - delivered by video link from Kyiv - to issue a renewed appeal for Western support, including a Nato no-fly zone.

The UK and its allies have repeatedly ruled out enforcing a no-fly-zone over Ukraine as it would result in Nato shooting down Russian jets, which many believe could spark another world war.

ITV News Correspondent Rebecca Barry speaks to Ukrainian refugees who have fled into Poland