Fifty Ukrainian orphans delayed ahead of arrival in London

Group is in the care of Scottish charity Dnipro Kids, which is affiliated with Edinburgh's Hibernian Football Club

Ukrainian children evacuated from orphanages have been moved with their carers through Poland. Reuters
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A group of Ukrainian orphans scheduled to fly to the UK after fleeing war in their home country have become stuck in Poland due to issues over their paperwork.

The 50 young travellers — ranging in age between two and 19 — and their carers were expecting to fly from Warsaw to London on Monday, before making their way up to Scotland later in the week.

However, before the plane left Heathrow Airport, a form that should have been sent by the Ukrainian government to the Polish Ministry of Family and Social Policy, needed to release the group, was not sent in time.

It is now said that the Virgin flight will not take place before Wednesday, with organisers looking at alternative options. The children and their carers are now awaiting the next flight in a hotel.

SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford, who was due to join the flight, told the PA news agency: “We’ve been up against a race against time to get the paperwork that needs to be in place signed off on and there’s been a delay on that.

“So, for the time being, it means that nothing is going to happen today.

“I think the key thing is that a lot of people will determine everything is done to support the orphans that are currently in Poland.

“That has always been the first and last concern of all of this, so we’ll continue to work with everybody to make sure that arrangements can be put in place to give the children that sanctuary in Scotland.”

Home Secretary Priti Patel announced on Thursday that the youngsters, who are being cared for by the Scottish charity Dnipro Kids — set up by supporters of Edinburgh's Hibernian Football Club — has already been given formal approval by her department to travel to Britain.

One of the Hibernian players, Polish-born goalkeeper Kevin Dabrowski, released a video on social media welcoming the children to Scotland, a country which he said was “safe".

On Monday, the Dnipro Kids charity tweeted an image of the children and said they were “ready to go” as they embarked on the first leg of their journey to the UK.

Steven Carr, the chairman of the charity who led the effort to evacuate the youngsters from Lviv in Ukraine, said they were “just thankful and relieved that we are getting the kids to the safety of the UK, and to Scotland, at last".

“We've known these children and their carers for many years, and when they said they wanted to get out we were determined to help,” Mr Carr said.

“The assistance we have had from the other charities and organisations has been very important to us, and we wanted to place our thanks to them on the record.

“It is also very important to us to place our thanks on record to the UK government and to the governments of both Ukraine and Poland for their help, understanding and assistance.”

He praised the “unstinting work” of Mr Blackford, who raised the plight of the orphans in the House of Commons.

Mr Carr said Mr Blackford “helped push things over the line and helped get things done".

“We hope at that stage we can let them get on with life,” Mr Carr said.

He thanked the Scottish government, local councils and other organisations who had “stepped up” to help the group.

“Without all the help we've received, this would have been an almost impossible task,” Mr Carr said.

Mr Blackford praised Dnipro Kids, which was set up in 2005 after football fans visited local orphanages when Hibernian played against the Ukrainian team Dnipro FC, for the “extraordinary and uplifting story".

As a Hibs fan myself, this has been a source of great pride and I was delighted and privileged to help
Ian Blackford, SNP

“As a Hibs fan myself, this has been a source of great pride and I was delighted and privileged to help,” he said.

“It has been an at times arduous process but bringing these children to safety has been an absolute vindication of all the hard work.

“They will head to Scotland where I know they will be enveloped in warmth and welcome.

“I am delighted beyond words that they will finally be here but I also hope this inspiring moment will be the start of a much bigger change that can ensure many more displaced children will also be able to find sanctuary in Scotland and the UK.”

Updated: March 21, 2022, 4:55 PM