The number of refugees arriving in the UK under Ukraine visa schemes has risen by more than 10,000 in just over a week, figures show.
Some 37,400 people had arrived in the UK under Ukraine visa schemes as of Tuesday, according to Government figures published on Friday. This is up from 27,100 by Monday April 25. The latest arrivals include 19,500 under the Homes for Ukraine sponsorship scheme – a rise of three-quarters from 11,100 last week. And 17,900 people have arrived under the family scheme, up from 16,000.
The Homes for Ukraine scheme in particular has faced widespread criticism over the length of time it has been taking for refugees to receive visas and come to the UK. The latest figures show the number of people who have received visas and are reaching the UK is growing, but the majority – around six in 10 – have not yet arrived.
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The PA news agency has reported on multiple cases where families are unable to travel to the UK because not all family members have received permission to travel letters or visas. Government officials believe some people applied for visas so they have the option of coming to the UK but are staying near Ukraine so they can return home sooner, or have since changed their minds.
Earlier this week Prime Minister Boris Johnson admitted the UK could have reacted faster in helping Ukrainian refugees, but told ITV’s Good Morning Britain “large numbers” are now coming to the UK. Also this week, a group of would-be hosts threatened the Government with legal action on behalf of hundreds of refugees who have been waiting since March to receive their visas.
The latest figures show 33% of people who have been granted visas under the Homes for Ukraine scheme have traveled to the UK, up from around a fifth last week. And 49.3% of those with visas under the family scheme have arrived, up from 45.8%. By Thursday, around 125,100 applications had been made for visas, and 95,500 had been issued.
These include 44,200 applications under the family scheme, of which 36,300 visas have been granted, and 80,900 applications under the sponsorship scheme, of which 59,100 visas have been granted.
More than three-quarters of applications for visas under both schemes have been granted, the figures show. This includes 82.1% of applications under the family scheme, and 73% of Homes for Ukraine applications.
Enver Solomon, chief executive of the Refugee Council, told PA the Government’s visa scheme was not “fit for purpose in responding to a humanitarian crisis” and the numbers were in “stark comparison to Europe”, adding: “We stand out as being much lower (in terms of the numbers of arrivals).”
Mr Solomon said the rise in arrivals was as a result of delays between people being granted visas and traveling to the UK and, while this could rise further in the coming weeks, officials believe numbers in the family scheme are “plateauing”.
‘We’re so sorry’: Mariupol steel plant evacuates feel relief and grief
Some of the civilians who emerged from the bombarded Azovstal steel plant, the last Ukrainian holdout in the ruined city of Mariupol, have offered the clearest picture yet of their two-month order.
The Tsybulchenko family was among the first to emerge from the site in a tense, days-long evacuation negotiated by the United Nations and the International Committee of the Red Cross with the governments of Russia, which now controls Mariupol, and Ukraine, which wants the city-back.
A brief ceasefire allowed more than 100 civilians to flee the plant. They arrived safely in the southern Ukrainian city of Zaporizhzhia this week. There, they described for the Associated Press (AP) their two months at the center of hell, and their escape. In the earliest days of Russia’s invasion, Elina Tsybulchenko, 54, was shocked by the bombardment of her city. Like many residents with memories of civil defense drills, she knew the steel plant had the only real bunkers in town. When she, her husband de ella Serhii, her daughter Tetyana and her son-in-law Ihor Trotsak decided to hole up in the one de ella under her office de ella, she assumed they would stay a few days.
“We didn’t even take toothbrushes,” Ms Tsybulchenko said.
But a few days turned into 60. They had brought only their documents, three blankets, two dogs and fruit carried in a basket they used for Orthodox Easter. They did not think they would mark the holiday there weeks later.
The steel plant has a maze of more than 30 bunkers and tunnels spread out over its 11 square kilometers (four miles), and each bunker was its own world. Evacuees had little or no communication with those elsewhere in the plant; they would eventually meet on the buses to Zaporizhzhia and compare experiences.
Their isolation complicates estimates of the number of civilians and Ukrainian fighters who remain. A few hundred civilians are still trapped, the Ukrainian side said this week, including more than 20 children.
UK creates fossil fuel exemption to keep Ukraine energy supplies topped up
The UK will exempt Ukraine from its ban on providing public support for fossil fuel energy overseas as ministers look to make sure services can continue to operate during the protracted conflict.
It comes as ministers announced that hundreds more generators are to be delivered to keep hospitals, shelters and phone masts operating as Russia continues to bombard in an attempt to seize the east of Ukraine. Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said the energy-related announcements were part of policies aimed at “ramping up” support for Kyiv.
Officials said Ukraine and other parts of eastern Europe would benefit from time-limited exemptions to the UK Government’s international fossil fuel support policy to ensure Britain can join global efforts to keep the embattled country’s energy supplies topped up.
The policy prevents the UK providing any new direct financial or promotional support for the fossil fuel energy sector overseas but ministers argued that exempting Ukraine would allow London to address the energy security impact of the conflict and quickly respond to requests for assistance.
The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy said the temporary measure could see the UK supporting Ukraine to ensure there is enough fuel for vehicles involved in food production and other basic services. Ministers could also choose to help build up energy reserves ahead of winter.
On top of the policy suspension, Britain will supply a further 287 mobile generators to Kyiv, taking the total number provided to more than 850. The new generators, enough to power the equivalent of around 8,000 homes, have been purchased from Merseyside-based supplier Speedy Hire.
Mr Kwarteng said: “Putin’s atrocities have continued to escalate, and so we are ramping up our support to the Ukrainian people in their time of need. Our donation of a further 287 generators will ensure more essential services in Ukraine can keep running.”