Government slammed as five homes in Ashton-under-Lyne stand empty waiting for Ukrainian refugees

Video by ITV Granada Reports Journalist Tasha Kacheri

A property consultant offering five empty homes for refugee families fleeing the conflict in Ukraine says he is 'frustrated' government red tape is stopping them being filled.

Stephen Gooderson says 12 months rent has been paid on the properties in Ashton-under-Lyne by fundraising, but not one family has been allowed into the UK to move in.

"We are frustrated," he says. "We do not have any refugee families to go into these empty homes. Not one. There is too much red tape.

"The people who are losing out are the refugees trying to get to safety.

"We are being knocked from pillar to post, one department to another, this committee to that committee."

Stephen Gooderson is offering refugees to the chance to move into five empty properties in Tameside

The UK government promised help while the British people opened their homes and hearts, with over 150,000 people registering to sponsor people from Ukraine looking to come to the UK.

So far the government has received nearly 60,000 visa applications, and they have issued around 26,000.

Just 2,700 visas have been granted to people wanting to come to the UK under the Homes For Ukraine scheme, despite applications reaching 28,300.

A total of 22,800 visas have been issued under the separate Ukraine Family Scheme, which allows Ukrainians to join relatives living in the UK.

Campaigners called the numbers are 'woeful', urging the Government to 'cut the red tape' for refugees seeking sanctuary in Britain.

Lord Harrington, refugees minister, admitted the forms took 'too long' to fill in and said the government was trying to speed up the process.

There has been criticism of the scheme since it was launched, with charities claiming the process 'is just too difficult' for those fleeing Ukraine.

The British Red Cross says the quickest way to help people would be for the UK to stop requiring visas for those fleeing Ukraine - and would bring it in line with many other countries which have done so since the crisis began.

The charity said it has had representatives at major airports and arrival hubs since 19 March - but so far only 65 people arriving from Ukraine had been helped.

'Homeless' refugees in UK

But even those with visas are not always being housed. The Local Government Association said some refugees have been reporting themselves to councils as being homeless.

So far, 57 councils have said people had presented as homeless - 44 who were part of the family scheme and 56 from Homes from Ukraine.

Another 64 had entered through other routes, possibly travelling to Ireland and then entering the UK from there.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson defended the government's 'overwhelmingly generous' record on refugees, saying 1,000 visas were being processed a day and telling MPs: "There is no upper limit to the number that we can take."

For people like Stephen in Tameside, moved by the plight of the refugees, that support is not enough.

"We are frustrated after all the hard work. These houses are standing empty. We need to help them."

Stephen and his partners fear all his efforts will go to waste and the houses will remain empty.