Suffolk sees 69% rise in approved refugee visas

Louise, John, Daisy Lowery

Louise, John and Daisy Lowery are sponsoring a mother and daughter from Ukraine, but the application has not moved forward since March 28. - Credit: Louise Lowery

Visas issued allowing Ukrainian refugees to come to Suffolk have risen by nearly 70% in a week, with host families sharing joy and frustration in their efforts to host those fleeing the country.

As of Thursday, the government has issued 417 visas in the county through the Homes for Ukraine, an increase of 171 from last week. 

Of those, 32 were in Ipswich, 145 in West Suffolk, 106 in East Suffolk, 60 in Babergh and 74 in Mid Suffolk. 

This week in Essex, 115 visas were issued in Colchester,  73 in Braintree, 66 in Tendring and 39 in Maldon. 

For those offering their homes to families it has been a mixed bag of feelings about the application process, with some families still waiting a month on for their sponsored family's visa to be processed.

This was not the case for Geoff Bulbick, from Ipswich, who said: “My own experience with the process of getting visas has been good. For the family I will be hosting it took a week from application to receipt of the visas, despite the intervening Easter holidays.” 

Mr Bulbick also heard about various problems with getting a visa.

He said: “I have wondered whether the fact that both the mother and child who are my guests have current Ukrainian international passports helps. I’ve certainly heard from others that they are being contacted over weekend and holiday periods, so there doesn’t seem to be any lack of effort from the authorities.

"Meanwhile, my guests have reached safety in a neighbouring country and I’m hoping to welcome them in the UK within days.” 

Mum and daughter Inna and Slava Stovpiaha are waiting for their visas to be approved to come to Ipswich.

Mum and daughter Inna and Slava Stovpiaha are waiting for their visas to be approved to come to Ipswich. - Credit: Inna Stovpiaha

Unfortunately, there are still Ukrainian families waiting for their visas, including mum and daughter Inna and Yaroslava who have been waiting since March 28.

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The pair will be hosted by Louise Lowery, from Ipswich, who said they have received emails that confirm their application but there was no further information in their case for almost a month. 

There are concerns as 12-year-old Yaroslava's passport expires in a few weeks, which means the family will have to start their application again.

Louise, John, Daisy Lowery

Louise, John and Daisy Lowery are sponsoring a mother and daughter from Ukraine, but the application has not moved forward since March 28. - Credit: Louise Lowery

Ms Lowery said: "It's so frustrating there is no one to contact, and we have tried and exhausted every avenue to get some kind of information. We contacted the local MP who so far has not been able to do anything. We are trying to keep our Ukrainian family positive that we will hear soon but it's very difficult and sad that the government are leaving these people in limbo for such a long time. I just can’t understand that with all the technology we’ve got you can’t track an application.

“It breaks our hearts we are all ready for our family. We just need the home office to do their job. It would help if we could track the application or even get a genuine update. We sit waiting for an email, checking every minute, and so does our Ukrainian family.” 

The figures do not include refugees under the Ukraine Family Scheme, where applicants can join their family members who already live in the UK. 

A spokesman from Suffolk County Council said the council has no control over the application process with applications.

They added: “Once a sponsor is matched with a Ukraine citizen or family, and a visa application has been submitted to the Home Office, the details are downloaded by Suffolk County Council via the Department of Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) portal daily, Monday to Friday.  

"Suffolk County Council aims to call each sponsor within two working days of being made aware that the visa application has been applied for, to gather information that feeds into the initial accommodation and Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) checks that are undertaken in parallel with the Home Office considering the visa application.” 

"The time taken for the visa application to be processed is not dependent on the progress of the local accommodation and DBS checks.” 

The Tyrskykh family, who will be hosted by the Elliotts, from Ipswich, continue to wait for their visas, having fled from Kyiv to Brussels on March 5

Matt Hancock, Conservative MP for West Suffolk Picture: HOUSE OF COMMONS

Matt Hancock, Conservative MP for West Suffolk Picture: HOUSE OF COMMONS - Credit: Archant

This week West Suffolk MP and former Health Secretary Matt Hancock welcomed three generations of family members while the Bishop of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich, Rt Rev Martin Seeley, is still waiting to hear about his offer to house a refugee family at his home in Ipswich.