Ukrainian child denied access to UK for second time despite having a sponsor in North Staffordshire
A four-year-old girl from Ukraine who was sent back to the war-torn country has been denied access to the UK for a second time - despite having a sponsor willing to look after her.
Alika Zubets was forced to return to Kharkiv, near Ukraine's frontline, last month after being considered an "unaccompanied minor" for not being with her parents.
In June, she was unable to secure a visa under the Homes for Ukraine scheme and has again been denied a UK visa.
Tanya Zubets, Alika's grandmother, planned to travel with written consent from the four-year-old's parents to meet their sponsor in North Staffordshire.
Tanya had been granted a 90-day visa on April 12 but Alika's application was held up by numerous delays.
Dr Maggie Babb, a paediatric anaesthetist at Royal Stoke University Hospital, has been sponsoring Alika and her grandmother, Tanya Zubets.
Last week Maggie was told Alika's visa had been accepted but was shortly revoked after government officials said it was "approved in error".
Tanya and Maggie had been working hard to get Alika to North Staffordshire where they would stay.
Tanya has now settled at Maggie's home in Audley and was set to travel back to Ukraine to collect Alika when her documents were issued.
But now, they are left trying to overturn the latest refusal and bring Alika to safety 16 weeks since the process first started.
Last month ITV News Central reporter Rosie Dowsing spoke to Alika's grandmother and prospective host in Audley
Maggie, who has five children of her own said: "We had been trying to find out where we had to pick up Alika's visa from so we could make her travel arrangements, but then a woman from the Home Office rang me to say it had been issued in error.
"We were so close and it has been snatched away. I am speechless.""Tania and her family are extremely anxious about it all. It's potentially very tragic and she must be thinking about it every waking moment.""If Alika is stuck in Kharkiv and gets killed, how could we ever live with that? I feel like I have a relationship with this little girl that I have never met and if anything happens to her I will be devastated."
Alika's parents remain in Kharkiv, 25 miles from the Russian border, due to her father working in a military hospital and her mother looking after her disabled mother, Alika's other grandmother.
In June, the government announced it would begin processing applications from unaccompanied children if certain safeguarding conditions were met.
The latest government guidelines state potential sponsors of a child who is not travelling with or joining a parent or legal guardian must have known them before the conflict started on February 24 this year.
However, in exceptional circumstances councils may determine the sponsor does not need to be personally known to the parent or legal guardian so long as the child will be cared for appropriately by an adult relative from the parents or legal guardian and will live with them in the UK.
Maggie is now hoping Staffordshire County Council will approve their arrangements as Alika's grandmother Tanya has temporary notarised legal guardianship of Alika and will be living with her at Maggie's home in Audley.
A spokesperson for the Department for Levelling Up, Housing & Communities, which oversees the Homes for Ukraine scheme, said the department is "aware of the issue and is working with MP Aaron Bell to get it resolved".
"We have a responsibility to keep children safe and have put in place strong safeguarding measures to protect them once they arrive in the UK."