‘Wacky’ visa heist prevents Ukrainian mother and daughter from traveling to Plymouth

A Ukrainian mother and daughter and their pets have been stuck in France for more than a fortnight despite having a home waiting for them in Plymouth – because of the UK’s ‘wacky’ visa system. Natasha and Anna, 17, along with their dog and cat, managed to escape war in Ukraine and cross Europe to find the UK immigration system too far.

Steve Gerry, business consultant and secretary of the Plymouth Manufacturers’ Group, who went on a mercy mission to Eastern Europe to bring his friends to Plymouth as part of the government’s Homes for Ukraine scheme, said despite his request visa the day the program was opened, March 18, Natasha, Anna and their animals are still stranded on the other side of the Channel. Mr Gerry said they were caught up in the red tape and delays caused by the UK and said: ‘It’s ridiculous.’

Speaking to PlymouthLive from France, Mr Gerry said that after fleeing their home in the Ukrainian capital kyiv, with just 10 minutes’ warning, Natasha and Anna were met with nothing but kindness during their escape by road and rail through Poland, Germany and France. And while he praised the British people for their response to the Ukrainian crisis caused by the Russian invasion and their desire to help refugees, he said the British government had been slow to respond.

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He said: ‘I want to point out how difficult it is to bring refugees to Plymouth, or anywhere else. We took advantage of the first opportunity to apply for a visa, two weeks ago, it was a laborious task. The British people want to have them here, it’s government bureaucracy.

Mr Gerry explained how Natasha and Anna fled their home in the Ukrainian capital Kyiv on February 26 when the Russian invasion began. Traveling with another family, they fled to Poland, driving non-stop in sub-zero temperatures.

They entered Poland without any border controls and were well received, and Mr. Gerrry flew to Krakow to meet them. He rented a car and they drove through Poland and Germany, again without any border issues.

Military vehicles escape Natasha’s car as she and her daughter, pets and friends flee Kyiv

In Dresden they switched to the train and traveled to Strasbourg in France, again without any border issues as the European Schengen area does not require checks, then to Paris to apply for a visa to come to the Kingdom -United. All train journeys were provided free of charge by the Germans and the French.

It was after this that Natasha and Anna’s escape to safety hit the pads. Mr Gerry left them with a friend in the French town of Laval, where the mayor gave them a civic welcome, while he returned to Plymouth to collect his car and return to France.

But after completing that trip, he discovered that visa applications were still waiting to be processed. Mr Gerry also had to apply for a new Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) criminal record check from Plymouth City Council, even though he had already been approved because of his work with PMG students, and there is also problems with the pet passport scheme. , although veterinary care and anti-rabies shots were administered free of charge in France.

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‘Plymouth City Council also want to visit my house to make sure it is suitable,’ he said. “But it is ongoing. The advice has been very good and effective. I have also written four times to (Plymouth Moor View Tory MP) Johnny Mercer and had replies from his office.

Around 200,000 people in the UK have offered to host Ukrainian refugees, and around 25,000 Ukrainians wish to enter the country. However, around 2 million are in Poland and the UK government has been criticized for its response.

Refugees Minister Lord Harrington of Watford has now promised the visa system will be simplified to just 48 hours after admitting that only ‘hundreds’ of refugees have managed to enter the UK. Mr Gerry said: ‘They have been welcomed with open arms in Poland, Germany and France, and the British people are enthusiastic – but that’s government bureaucracy.’

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