A British couple in Ukraine have described the “bizarre” and “worrying” wait for their surrogate-born baby’s emergency travel document.
Thousands of Britons are being urged to leave the country immediately over growing concerns that Russia could launch an invasion in the coming days, despite diplomatic efforts to avert war.
Ben Garratt, 40, and his wife, Alice, live in Queen’s Park, north London, but moved to Kyiv in December where their son was born thanks to the “very different surrogacy laws” in Ukraine that allow for a swifter IVF and surrogacy process.
Mr Garratt, who works in stakeholder engagement at London North Eastern Railway, said he and his wife are growing increasingly concerned after the Foreign Office updated its advice on Friday evening to encourage UK nationals to leave.
He told the PA news agency: “It does add to our worry, we’re thinking about basic things that we need to do to make sure that we’re ready to leave as soon as possible.”
“If we take the advice at face value, it means the UK and also the US government are worried that Russian action is imminent – that makes us want to get out.”
The couple, who were originally waiting on a British passport to be issued for baby Raphael, are now also trying to secure an emergency travel document.
“We’re essentially stuck in Ukraine until we can get the required British paperwork to allow our son born here to leave,” Mr Garratt said.
“When we first arrived, that means getting him a British passport but given the current situation, it means getting him an emergency travel document.
“It’s getting frustrating because we’re being told by the UK Government to leave the country… and we still don’t have the document we need.”
Mr Garratt is due to have an interview with the passport office in Kyiv next week to provide proof of his son’s British citizenship.
“They want to do a two-hour phone interview with me, but that’s not until Wednesday,” he said.
“It is bizarre, but I think it’s based around the normal assumption that the people applying for an emergency travel document, perhaps, are already definitely British and maybe they’ve just lost their passport somewhere, as opposed to being a newborn baby who needs to go through that process.”
Mr Garratt said much of their fears revolve around making sure they have ticked every box required on Raphael’s paperwork.
“There’s always the worry that we’ve missed something or, you know, I’ve got a large folder and lots of bits of paper I’ve taken colour copies of, and there’s always the worry that we’ve missed something.
“The key individuals we’ve been talking to in the Government and outside the government have been really helpful and very reassuring, but it’s the bureaucratic processes that add concern and frustration.”
Friends and family have been in touch, urging Mr Garratt, his wife, and Raphael to get home.
“We have had a flurry of messages from friends and family.
“Last night, when the travel advice changed, some (were) checking if we’d seen it – of course we’d seen it.
“Some were asking, ‘oh, you’re back in the UK, right?’
“I reply, ‘no, we’re not back in the UK’ and they’re saying, ‘no – why? That’s ridiculous’.”
Despite the anxiety surrounding their son’s travel documents, the couple maintain life in Kyiv remains “normal”.
“All we know, just what we see from taking Rafi for a walk every day, everything seems normal,” Mr Garratt said.
“There’s tourists outside the churches and cathedrals taking photos – it’s feels very normal out there.
“But I don’t know what abnormal in a big city like this would feel like.”