Northampton woman helping sister flee Ukraine says UK visa system is like 'Mission Impossible'

Watch Hannah Pettifer's report

A Ukranian woman living in Northamptonshire says families are waiting weeks to get visa application appointments for relatives who've fled the conflict.

Slava Trach, who lives in Scaldwell, says her sister is in Romania with her two children after fleeing the war in Ukraine and leaving her husband behind to fight.

Slava's three cousins and their families are also in a refugee camp in Poland.

Despite the Home Secretary removing the requirement for appointments as of next Tuesday, Slava said the process has been needlessly stressful and described the process to bring her family to the UK as 'mission impossible.'

A week ago she applied to the Home Office for her sister, Hanna.

On Wednesday Slava managed to secure an appointment for them at a visa application centre in Romania but they now face up to another week's wait for their application to be approved.

Slava's also trying to bring her three cousins and their nine children to her home in Northampton.

They're currently in a refugee camp in Poland but have to wait until 21st March for their visa appointment.

Slava said:

"It's heartbreaking, it's absolutely heartbreaking. People who are in that situation, they really didn't want to go.  They left only after their children's school was bombarded, that was their sign that there is no safety and they have to go to at least keep the children safe.

"They have nobody else but us, we are their only family outside Ukraine and they are now in refugee centre where they have a mattress to sleep on and some food provided by volunteers while I have a house I'm happy to share with them with a bedroom to put them in. I have food to provide them with but I just can't get them here. It's just that stamp in a passport we need and that is mission impossible."

Slava and her sister, Hanna Credit: Family photo

The government has been criticised for its Ukraine Family Scheme which allows Ukrainian nationals to join relatives already in the UK.

Currently, those eligible have to travel to a visa application centre to give their biometric details before coming to the UK.

But the centres have been described as understaffed and chaotic and in some cases, they've been closed.

The Home Office has now announced that as of Tuesday, Ukrainians with passports will be able to travel to the UK after filling in an application online.

Priti Patel, Home Secretary and MP for Witham said:

"In short, Ukrainians with passports will be able to get permission to come here fully online wherever they are and will be able to give their biometrics once in Britain. This will mean that visa application centres across Europe can focus their efforts on helping Ukrainians without passports."

For Slava though, it's something that should have been addressed long ago.

She said: "My family are absolutely devastated. The children call us from a refugee centre. My little niece is five - she doesn't understand what war is. She keeps asking where her father is, why she can't play with her toys, why they're not at home and just that bit of comfort we could have provided, we were unable to do."

While waiting to be reunited with her sister, Slava has raised enough money to send two shipments of donations to Ukraine.

She said it's all she can do she says to take her mind off the desperate situation facing her family.