4 min read
Exclusive: The Home Office has emailed MPs telling them they will no longer provide updates on Ukrainian refugee visa cases despite people being left stranded for weeks while they try to reach the UK.
Refugee sponsors in the UK have criticised the Home Office after some MPs were asked to “not chase” its immigration team for updates about visa applications for Ukrainian refugees.
People fleeing Ukraine can be granted a visa to live in the UK via two schemes. One allows Ukrainians with family members in the UK to come to the country, while the second, Homes for Ukraine, allows someone without family links to be matched with a UK sponsor.
But the Home Office has faced widespread criticism that the Homes for Ukraine scheme has been beset by delays and technical problems.
In an email seen by PoliticsHome, Home Office officials tell MPs seeking updates on visa applications connected to their constituents that their case is “one of many thousands submitted to one of the fastest and largest visa programmes in UK history” and refused to provide individual updates.
“Due to the volume of correspondence we are currently receiving, we will not be able to provide you with further interim updates, so we would be grateful if you do not chase your enquiry further,” the email added.
The email stated that Home Office staff are working “seven days a week” to process Ukrainian refugee cases, and that applications would be processed in date order from when they were uploaded digitally, or when someone had attended a visa application centre.
But one sponsor, who has sought the assistance of their MP with a delayed application, accused the Home Office of “lying” about the process and said some applications have now been stalled for more than three weeks.
“They are lying. We have been waiting for weeks for an update and the only way to get any information is for our MP to chase them,” they told PoliticsHome.
“I am absolutely furious that the Home Office is now telling MPs to stop bothering them. The entire department is morally bankrupt.”
A Home Office spokesperson did not dispute that the email had been sent to MPs, and insisted that officials were working to “speed up visa processing across both schemes”.
A caseworker for a London MP said they had received the email and had previously received similar responses when trying to get updates on immigration cases not related to the Ukraine crisis, including for Afghan refugees.
“It’s been a bit of a nightmare getting responses back,” they added.Earlier this month, refugees minister Richard Harrington admitted the rollout of the scheme had been “embarrassing” and said it was “not acceptable” that some had waited ten days for responses.
But PoliticsHome has received information about visa cases which have been delayed for several weeks, with some refugee families trapped in Ukraine as they wait for a Home Office response.
Sponsors said they had become “dependent” on their MP to provide updates through a dedicated hotline made available to check the status of cases.
Tom, a sponsor from Yorkshire, said the Home Office had failed to protect vulnerable refugees trying to come to the UK and were now “fobbing off” MPs who were trying to access “basic information”.
“This is a national disgrace. They could have put up a simple tracker online so we could be informed of the progress of our applications.
“Instead they botched together a broken system that has left refugees trapped in their bomb shelters while the Home Office helpline for sponsors refuses to give us updates because they claim they can’t even access their own systems.
He added: “Now they won’t even let MPs ask for basic information because they are so utterly incompetent that they can’t get a simple website to work.”
A government spokesperson said: “In response to Putin’s barbaric invasion we have launched one of the fastest and biggest visa schemes in UK history. In just four weeks, over 40,000 visas have been issued so people can rebuild their lives in the UK through the Ukraine Family Scheme and Homes for Ukraine.
“We are continuing to speed up visa processing across both schemes, including boosting caseworkers and simplifying the forms and we expect thousands more to come through these uncapped routes.”
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