Volunteers helping Ukrainian refugees in Poland label UK's Visa requirements an 'embarrassment'

ITV Granada Reports' journalist Victoria Grimes reports from the Polish border.

Volunteers who have been helping Ukrainian refugees on the Polish border say the UK's Visa requirements are an "embarrassment". 

Red tape and paperwork mean many people remain stuck in limbo, despite having an offer of shelter in the North West of England.

The government has acknowledged that the system is "not good enough" and said the Home Office has made changes to processing, which could help welcome people faster.

Mother and child try to keep warm as they wait at the Polish border. Credit: ITV News

More than ten million people are thought to have fled their homes in Ukraine because of the Russian invasion, according to the United Nations.

Poland has taken almost 2.5 million refugees, with many waiting to travel to Britain. Those trying to help say other countries are "laughing" at our Visa system.

"The fact that Britain is the only country in Europe that requires a Visa is somewhat embarrassing to be honest", says Tonya Burch.

Tonya is Ukrainian and flew to the border from her home in Salford, in Greater Manchester, to volunteer to help her countrywomen.

She is worried about her elderly parents, who were evacuated but returned home to Lyviv after two days. Meanwhile, her sister is stuck in Poland.

"We applied on the 5 March and I'm still waiting for the Visa. The kids of gone to a Polish school because it's been so long.

"The Ukrainian refugees are so precious. They're saying 'we don't mind how long we have to wait as long as there is no shelling and we're not being shot at'."

Volunteer Jamie Walker, from Bury, says he has spent weeks trying to help people fill in complicated UK Visa entry forms as there is "no one from the UK government" there.

He says it is "heartbreaking" to watch so many refugees waiting for news of a UK Visa after experiencing so much hardship already.

Tonya and Vicky have secured a home in Manchester - but they have no idea when they will arrive. Credit: ITV News

"What's really sad is that there is no one from the UK government here", he said from the refugee centre.

"It's taking them four hours to fill out that application form and then four weeks for them to be processed, whereas in other countries it's much quicker.

"They're going straight on a bus with a quick form, but the UK government are relying on volunteers to do it."

Jamie has up a GoFundMe page to buy blankets and other essentials to give to the refugees.

He says any additional money raise will be spent directly on essentials at the border or the humanitarian centre. 

A government spokesperson said: "The Homes for Ukraine scheme was set up in record time but we acknowledge progress approving visas has not been good enough.

"The Home Office has made changes to visa processing – the application form has been streamlined, Ukrainian passport holders can now apply online and do their biometrics checks once in the UK, and greater resource has gone into the system.

 "This is allowing us to welcome people faster, while still maintaining security checks which ensure those who could pose a threat to our safety are prevented from getting here and human trafficking is addressed.”