UK receives 37,400 Ukrainian refugees despite criticised system

Latest arrivals include 19,500 under Homes for Ukraine programme and 17,900 under family project

Workers at a 'welcome hub' for arriving Ukrainians in London. Getty Images
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The number of Ukrainian refugees arriving in the UK under new visa programmes has risen by more than 10,000 in a little more than a week, new figures show.

About 37,400 people had arrived in the UK under Ukrainian visa programmes as of Tuesday, government data published on Friday show. This is up from the 27,100 recorded on Monday, April 25.

The latest arrivals include 19,500 people entering under the Homes for Ukraine sponsorship project, up from the 11,100 registered last week, and another 17,900 people have arrived under the family programme, up from 16,000.

The Homes for Ukraine programme has faced widespread criticism over the length of time it generally takes for refugees to receive visas and make the trip to the UK.

Enver Solomon, chief executive of the Refugee Council, said the government's visa programme was not “fit for purpose in responding to a humanitarian crisis”.

Ukrainian refugees volunteer at the Ukrainian Cultural Centre sorting humanitarian aid for compatriots in the UK and Ukraine. Getty Images

Mr Solomon said the rise in arrivals was a result of delays between people being granted visas and being cleared to travel to the UK.

While more could arrive in the coming weeks, officials say the number of people coming to the country through the family programme is “plateauing”.

Alex Fraser, director of refugee support at the British Red Cross, called on the government to temporarily waive visa requirements for Ukrainians so they can reach the UK “quickly and safely”.

“The whole process is taking far too long. Families are being left in limbo and often experience great financial and emotional strain as a result,” he said.

The latest figures show the number of people who have received visas and are coming to the UK is growing, but the majority — about six in 10 — have not yet arrived.

There have been a number of cases in which families have been unable to travel to the UK because not all family members have received the documentation necessary for travel.

Government officials believe some people applied for visas so they have the option of coming to the UK but are staying near Ukraine so they can return home sooner.

This week, Prime Minister Boris Johnson admitted the UK could have reacted faster in helping Ukrainian refugees, but told ITV's Good Morning Britain that “large numbers” are now coming to the UK.

Also this week, a group of would-be hosts threatened the government with legal action on behalf of hundreds of refugees who have been waiting since March to receive their visas.

The latest figures show 33 per cent of people who have been granted visas under the Homes for Ukraine programme have travelled to the UK, up from about a fifth last week.

And 49.3 per cent of those with visas under the family programme have arrived, up from 45.8 per cent.

By Thursday, about 125,100 applications had been made for visas and 95,500 had been issued.

These include 44,200 applications under the family programme — of which 36,300 have been granted — and 80,900 applications under the sponsorship programme — of which 59,100 have been granted.

More than three quarters of applications for visas under both programmes have been granted, the figures show.

Updated: May 06, 2022, 8:03 PM