Ukraine refugee sponsors threaten to take the Government to court over 'unreasonable' delays

Would-be sponsors under the Homes For Ukraine visa scheme are threatening the Government with legal action on behalf of hundreds of refugees who have spent weeks waiting to come to the UK.

By PA Reporter
Wednesday, 4th May 2022, 4:45 am

A class action lawsuit is being prepared over "inordinate and unreasonable delays" in processing hundreds of visa applications made in March.

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It comes as Prime Minister Boris Johnson admitted that refugees could have been helped to get to the UK faster.

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Protesters at a rally earlier this year. (Pic: PA)

Home Office data shows as of Tuesday, April 26, the number of visas issued for sponsors based in Leeds stood at 345 – up from 66 as of April 6, when local figures on the scheme were first published.

The groups behind the action, Vigil 4 Visas and Taking Action Over The Homes For Ukraine Visa Delays, say the delays have put people in Ukraine and border countries at risk, and heaped "considerable pressure and strain" on UK hosts.

Lawyers for the groups are planning to send a pre-action protocol letter to the Home Office this week, asking it to "sort out the endless muddles and tangles".

They could then apply for a judicial review of the Government's visa-processing policy.

Katherine Klinger, who has helped organise vigils outside the Home Office over the past week, told PA: "Perhaps the most striking thing I've noticed is the utter despair, shame and sense of responsibility so many hosts report.

"Hosts are in tears sometimes when they report to us what has happened in the past six weeks - dozens of emails, phone calls, letters, trips to the Home Office, MPs' involvement etc - it's very humbling."

The groups launched an online crowdfunder on Tuesday to raise up to £15,000 to help pay for the legal costs.

The crowdjustice page reads: "If the Home Office does not get a grip on this urgent and potentially catastrophic situation, we will bring our action for judicial review and ask that it is considered urgently in light of the vulnerability of so many of the March applicants."

Mr Johnson said "large numbers" of those fleeing the war are now coming to Britain.

In an interview with Susanna Reid on ITV's Good Morning Britain, he said: "So far 86,000 visas have been issued and 27,000 are already here and I want to say 'thank you' - 27,000 is a lot and it's growing fast and I want to pay tribute to all those who are helping to look after Ukrainians.

"Could we have done it faster? Yes, perhaps we could."

The legal letter will highlight 10 cases of Ukrainians who are still waiting for their visas after applying during the days after the Homes For Ukraine scheme first opened on March 18.

These include the case of a Ukrainian mother and her daughter, aged under 10, who applied for their visas around five weeks ago.

The mother received her visa on April 18 but the little girl is still waiting.

A Government spokesman said: "In response to (Vladimir) Putin's barbaric invasion we launched one of the fastest and biggest visa schemes in UK history. Over 86,000 visas have been issued so Ukrainians can live and work in the UK.

"The changes the Home Office has made to streamline the visa system, including simplifying the forms and boosting staff numbers, are working and we are now processing visas as quickly as they come in - enabling thousands more Ukrainians to come through our uncapped routes."