Ukraine war: Bristol volunteer in Poland says UK ‘too slow’ granting refugee visas

Ruth McMenamin has left behind her family and work to support the huge aid effort that is unfolding in Europe. Credit: ITV News

A Bristol woman who has travelled to Poland to support Ukrainian refugees says the UK government is not doing enough to help people settle in the West Country. 

Ruth McMenamin has left behind her family and work to support the huge aid effort that is unfolding in Europe.

She says the British visa system is slow and over-complicated and is calling for pressure to be put on politicians to do more to help.

The 34-year-old told ITV News West Country: "Most people are turning up saying 'I've got here, I don't know what's next' so they need help with the next stages.

Refugees seeking shelter in a Warsaw railway station. Credit: Ruth McMenamin

"We've got lots of people here wanting to be matched up and we've got lots of people at home offering their houses and the British public are being so generous.

"150,000 people now have registered their interest - but the government's doing everything possible to make this process difficult and it's putting women and children in danger."An estimated 15,000 people are fleeing across the border from Ukraine into Poland every day.

Some countries are offering visa-free passage for the refugees but in England, homeowners need to apply to host through the Homes for Ukraine scheme and sponsor Ukrainian people.

Ruth has taken a three-month break from her Bristol marketing job. Credit: ITV News

'Not good enough'

Ruth added: "They've just fled a war-torn country, it's taken them three to four days to get here and then we're saying 'oh can you just wait until we get a bit of admin done?'. It's just not good enough.

"Every other country in Europe seems to have managed it and seems to be dealing with this in a much more human way."

Ruth said it took her several hours to register through the government website after which she was told there would be a seven-day wait for a response.

She has raised £3,000 to help pay for the refugees' essential supplies but it is pressure on the government which she says is just as urgent.

"Instead of thinking admin first, we need to think of the people first who are actually going through this," she said.

The latest figures suggest the Home Office has accepted 18,600 visa applications from Ukrainian refugees.

A Home Office spokesperson said: “We stand shoulder to shoulder with Ukraine and the changes we’ve made to the visa process are making it quicker and simpler for Ukrainians to come here, as well as ensuring those already here can stay.

"Staff are working seven days a week to process applications as quickly as possible.”