Nearly 700 Ukrainian refugees come to Suffolk - but frustration continues

Natalie and Matthew Smith are still waiting for a visa to be issued to a 14-year-old Ukrainian girl they are sponsoring

Natalie and Matthew Smith are still waiting for a visa to be issued to a 14-year-old Ukrainian girl they are sponsoring, after applying almost seven weeks ago. - Credit: Natalie Smith 

The number of visas issued to Ukrainian refugees coming to Suffolk has risen to nearly 700, but families are continuing to experience frustrations with the process.

In Suffolk, 687 visas have been issued as of May 6. Of those, 88 were in Babergh, 199 in East Suffolk, 51 in Ipswich, 143 in Mid Suffolk and 206 in West Suffolk. 

On April 26, this total was 618, meaning 69 new visas have been processed in the last 10 days. 

Meanwhile in Essex, the total of visas issued is 1,144, including 139 in Braintree, 158 in Chelmsford, 164 in Colchester, and 100 in Tendring.

Many people in Suffolk have expressed frustration at the visa application process. 

Martin Simmonds of Suffolk Refugee Support said: "From our communication with sponsors in Suffolk, people are finding the visa application form difficult to complete remotely with the refugees they're matched with. 

“There are also frustrations with the delays in the issuing of visas, and any mistake on the application form can delay this further.” 

This has been the case for Natalie and Matthew Smith in Barham. They applied to sponsor two Ukrainian sisters, aged 14 and 21, on March 20. 

Natalie has already prepared a room for the two girls she is in contact with

Natalie has already prepared a room for the two girls she is in contact with, and is desperate for them to come to the UK as soon as possible - Credit: Natalie Smith

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“I had to apply again on April 1. I don’t know what happened to the first application, I never heard anything more about it,” said Natalie, 37. 

“I’ve got a visa for the 21-year-old, but I’ve heard absolutely nothing about the 14-year-old. 

“They’re in Poland, and they’re running out of money because they’re being charged rent, and they can’t work.” 

The girls’ mother has had to remain in Ukraine, as she is a government worker.  

Natalie says she has been trying to find out the reason for this delay, but has had no success.  

Her MP, Dr Daniel Poulter, has been in contact with the Home Office to highlight the fact that Natalie has had to re-apply, and that the two sisters have now been waiting for some time. 

Natalie and her husband Matthew are growing increasingly worried as they wait for news.

Natalie and her husband Matthew are growing increasingly worried as they wait for news. - Credit: Natalie Smith

“I’m getting really desperate now,” said Natalie.  

“I really don’t know what to do, because they’ve been stuck in a foreign country for so long now. 

“These Ukrainian girls always talk about how grateful they are to the UK for everything they have done, and are always positive and patient despite the fact that the government is making them wait for months 

“That is how lovely they are. All they ask is for somewhere safe to work and study.” 

For more information about the visa application process, or how best to support refugees, visit the Suffolk Refugee Support website at: www.suffolkrefugee.org.uk/ukraine-refugee-update/