Pregnant Ukrainian refugee has to wait for visa for her baby before she can travel to UK

The Homes for Ukraine scheme has been beset by bureaucracy which has left one pregnant refugee waiting for a visa for her baby before she can seek refuge in the UK.

ITV News has been told of serious delays to the visa application process, with refugees having to fill out pages of complex forms on poor internet connections in their bomb shelters.

In Knaresborough, Maryse Haywood and her family have matched with a Ukrainian family who have fled to Poland.

Anna Kalyta and her mother Tetiana Yankovska are currently in a hostel, with Anna's three-year-old daughter Melania, where Anna expects to give birth any day.

  • Anna Kalyta gets emotional as she speaks of having her baby outside of Ukraine

Although Maryse has already applied to be their sponsor, the family cannot travel to the UK until the newborn baby also has a visa.

Asked how she felt about having to have her baby in temporary accommodation, Anna told me: "I didn't believe it to the last minute. I hoped that I would be able to go back to Ukraine. We thought this nightmare was going to last a week or so. I was packing my bags and planning to have the birth in Lviv. But the war has lingered."

Her mother said the family had to flee because they lived close to Hostomel Airport, which was under bombardment.

She told me: "The baby was also in the wrong position and Anna was supposed to have a C-section, and we were afraid that the Russians were going to start targeting hospitals. That is why we made the decision so fast. On the second day of war, we packed and left."

Anna and her family during happier times in Ukraine before the war.

They found Maryse online and matched with her via the Homes for Ukraine scheme.

But they are now stuck until the baby and paperwork arrive.

Maryse told me: "I feel frustrated, heartbroken, angry. I feel like I need to help but we've got our hands tied. And it's that hand-tying that's killing people."

  • Maryse Haywood on the anger she feels that the family are not able to travel to the UK yet

Saving people is the aim of the Homes for Ukraine programme, established last week to allow British families to sponsor Ukrainians they do not already know. More than 150,000 people have applied to be sponsors.

But the process requires matching with a specific refugee or family, which requires giving the government their names as part of the application.

This has driven thousands of sponsors to social media to find a match, where we saw up to a hundred families commenting on posts left by each Ukrainian seeking refuge here.

Among them, several children had posted asking for help, as well as a British man saying he was seeking a Ukrainian wife.

  • Maryse Haywood on how she has prepared her home for the arrival of Anna Kalyta, her three-year-old daughter and her mother Tetiana Yankovska

Security checks will be carried out on hosts, but charities have raised concerns about safeguarding.

Even when a match is successful, sponsors have told us the process is dogged with bureaucracy.

The government won't say how many visas have so far been granted via the scheme, but we've seen photographs of Ukrainian families having to fill out forms in bomb shelters, navigating intermittent internet to complete pages of forms.

Christopher Young from Refugee Assist told us: "People that are on the run fleeing these war-torn areas are having to upload documents like their passports, which they just don't have the facilities to do so. So it seems that the government are putting in quite a lot of hurdles."

  • Anna Kalyta and Tetiana Yankovska hope to travel back to Ukraine one day

In response, a government spokesperson told us: “We are moving as quickly as possible to ensure that those fleeing horrific persecution in Ukraine can find safety in the UK through the Family Scheme and our new Homes for Ukraine scheme.

“We are very aware that may people fleeing Putin’s invasion will not have certain documents with them. While such documents can aid the application process, our case workers are taking a compassionate, common sense approach."

But Labour called on ministers to reduce the bureaucracy.

Shadow Home Secretary, Yvette Cooper, told us: “A month after Putin’s invasion began, the continuing delays and problems with the Home Office visa processes for Ukrainian families are just shameful.

"How on earth can they send a pregnant woman from pillar to post in this way after everything she has already been through? For weeks they have been warned that the visa centres are too few and far between and the added bureaucracy and delays are causing a nightmare for families who have already been through a terrible ordeal.

"We need emergency centres at all travel points and unnecessary bureaucracy lifted."

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