Ukrainian Ambassador Says UK Visas Were Already A "Hassle" Prior To The Russian Conflict
The Ukrainian ambassador told MPs that the UK had previously “stuck out of the crowd” by having much stricter visa policies for Ukrainian citizens than the EU and US.
Vadym Prystaiko, the Ukrainian ambassador to the UK, said issues with the bureaucratic process to obtain visas to Britain existed “even before the war” with Russia, and that he’d even had issues when getting one for his wife when he first came to the country.
The government has faced increasing criticism over the confused handling of resettling eligible Ukrainians in Britain, with many refugees in Calais being told to travel hundreds of miles to Paris or Brussels to be processed.
Downing Street has now confirmed that a “pop up” visa processing centre will be set up for Ukrainian refugees fleeing conflict will be set up in Lille, France in “the coming days”.
Appearing before the home affairs select committee on Wednesday, Prystaiko said Ukrainians had been required to travel long distances to obtain a visa for many years.
“You used to produce visas in Ukraine, in Kyiv, which allowed all the Ukrainians to get to [it]. But [Ukraine] is the biggest by territory nation in Europe, so even travelling to one particular place was a hassle already,” Prystaiko told MPs.
“Then you moved to Poland years ago. It was much more difficult to get to Poland. Then you moved all the way to this island.”
Prystaiko said there were “always bureaucratic hassles” when Ukrainian had tried to obtain UK visas. He said he understood that the UK has “strict immigraition policies”, but continued that many other European nations also had such levels and their visa processes worked “beautifully”.
“[Ukraine] opened up to your citizens in 2005. So, all these years, unilaterally, we were allowing your citizens to come in, yet we have to face criticism within this country.”
“When the European Union opened [to Ukrainians] we had an even tougher time because we have to explain why the UK is the only one sticking out of the crowd. Because even with America, we were given a 10 years visa, which is more or less a visa free regime.”Prystaiko was also critical of the government’s focus on requiring security clearance for all Ukrainains coming to the UK, and urged them to consider dropping some requirements.
“Most of the people don't have their passports with them [because] their homes were bombed, and we were not printing passports in my embassy.”
He added: “How reasonable, how justified is your own system, that's frankly for you to decide.
“We will be happy if all the barriers are dropped for some period of time, when we can get maximum people [through]. Then we will deal with that and my embassy is here to help and also organise for those people.”
The ambassador said he believed there were up to 60,000 Ukrainians living in the UK, who could bring as many as 100,000 relatives with them under the government’s family visa scheme.
He also claimed that 750 family visas had been issued so far out of 22,000 applications.
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