Traumatised Ukrainian refugees forced to travel to Lille for visas 'nonsense' says Kent MP

Watch: ITV News Meridian's Joe Coshan reports from Roubaix, France on the challenges Ukrainian families face to obtain a UK visa.

Sir Roger Gale says Ukrainian refugees being forced to travel to Lille in France to get their visas processed are stuck between a rock and a hard place.

The MP for North Thanet has travelled to Calais alongside ITV Meridian, to meet refugees who are desperately trying to reach the Kent coast.

Mr Gale has welcomed today's announcement by Home Secretary Priti Patel, that Ukrainian refugees with family in the UK, will be able to secure their visas online, without having to physically attend a centre.

But the new system doesn't come into effect until Tuesday, meaning hundreds of refugees who have already arrived in Calais, are forced to travel dozens more miles to be processed, before being allowed into the UK.

Sir Roger Gale told ITV Meridian the current system is still impacting people now.

"We know there are hundreds, possibly thousands of people who want to come to England from a warzone in Ukraine.

Ukrainian refugees loading their belongings onto a bus before it departs from Calais Credit: PA

"They've lost everything, and it needs to be made as easy as possible for them.

"It's quite clear that the Port of Calais is doing everything it can to help. But it seems absolute nonsense that people then have to take the bus back to Lille, 70 miles away, after travelling half way across Europe.

"Already traumatised, they then have to go back to Lille, to do the biometrics.

Home Secretary Priti Patel announced today (March 10) that the new visa system will come into effect on Tuesday (15 March), but some are angry that people who have fled Ukraine will have to wait another five days.

The Home Office has come under increasing pressure from opposition and Tory MPs, as well as the Ukrainian government, to simplify the system.

  • North Thanet MP, Sir Roger Gale says processing should take place in Calais for those who've already arrived

A new “pop-up” facility is being opened in Lille, around 70 miles to the east of Calais.

The opening comes amid concern among politicians that smuggling gangs are targeting people in an area long associated with the migrant crisis.

However, there was no information about where to go for anyone making their own way to Lille’s two main railway stations on Wednesday.

"People smuggling has always been a problem on the north Kent coast, continued Sir Roger.

"But worries over that is not a reason for sending a lot of people all the way back to Lille, to process them. I don't believe it.

"The Port has said they can make the facilities available here, so why aren't we using them?

"It can be done here in Calais, or when these people reach the United Kingdom."