Cumbrian mother says delays in Ukrainian visa scheme is putting lives at risk

  • Video report by Ciaran Fitzpatrick

A mother from Cumbria who's offering to take in a family of Ukrainian refugees claims the process is so slow and frustrating that it's putting lives at risk. 

Shelly Wall, from Abbeytown, is waiting for the UK government to approve the family's visa applications, made 11 days ago. 

She says the Homes for Ukraine scheme is unnecessarily bureaucratic.

Shelly has been working round-the-clock to prepare their home, and their lives, for the arrival of a family of Ukrainian refugees. 

Her son Noah is disabled, but she says hosting a family feels like the right thing to do. 

Explaining why she wants to help, Shelly told ITV News Border: "The reason is that if I was in the same situation, i would want to know that there's someone out there that would do the same for me."

The Homes for Ukraine scheme means visas are granted, once a person has been sponsored by an organisation or family here in the UK. 

Shelly found a young mother online, with a six year old and an 11 year old. Their father will have to stay behind and fight.

She's video calls them every day.

She added: "One of the stories said that every single day my children wake up, and ask 'is the war over?' I said 'I've got to ring them up now.'

"And I rang her and said, 'Hi I'm Shelly and I'm from the UK, and we'd like to you to come to our house.'

"We chatted for over an hour, and (we're) very similar - we love cooking, we like to do all the family together and you know go out to places, picnics and barbecues, you know....the children come first, and that's exactly like we are at home." 

The family she is hoping to help say the fighting is getting closer and they are desperate to leave. 

Shelly says the government is putting the family's lives at risk by delaying the visa applications. She's been waiting 11 days to hear if their visas have been approved. 

She worries the longer they wait, the harder it will be for them to leave. 

Shelly said: "They've got their passports, stamp them, let them come in. I really don't understand why it's taking so long.

"It's not...they don't want to leave, but they can't go anywhere else. They have to leave, it's a war zone. It is life or death. And yet they're dragging their feet with the visas." 

While Shelly waits hopefully for news that their visas are approved, she says she won't rest until they are off the plane and safe in their new home. 

A government spokesperson said: "Our Homes for Ukraine scheme opened for applications ten days ago and has seen an incredible response from the British public with over 25,000 completed applications.

"The first visas were issued by the Home Office the weekend before last and we have seen Ukrainians starting to arrive under the scheme.

"The Home Office have made the process quicker and easier – the visa form is shorter and valid passport holders can apply online and complete biometric checks in the UK."