Envoy urges UK to lift visa rules for Ukrainians fleeing war

March 9, 2022 GMT
Ambassador of Ukraine to the UK, Vadym Prystaiko, speaks to the media outside the Ukrainian embassy in London, Sunday, March 6, 2022. (Yui Mok/PA via AP)
Ambassador of Ukraine to the UK, Vadym Prystaiko, speaks to the media outside the Ukrainian embassy in London, Sunday, March 6, 2022. (Yui Mok/PA via AP)
Ambassador of Ukraine to the UK, Vadym Prystaiko, speaks to the media outside the Ukrainian embassy in London, Sunday, March 6, 2022. (Yui Mok/PA via AP)
1 of 4
Ambassador of Ukraine to the UK, Vadym Prystaiko, speaks to the media outside the Ukrainian embassy in London, Sunday, March 6, 2022. (Yui Mok/PA via AP)
1 of 4
Ambassador of Ukraine to the UK, Vadym Prystaiko, speaks to the media outside the Ukrainian embassy in London, Sunday, March 6, 2022. (Yui Mok/PA via AP)

LONDON (AP) — Ukraine’s ambassador to Britain urged the government on Wednesday to suspend visa requirements for Ukrainians fleeing the war, after the U.K. acknowledged that fewer than 1,000 visas have been handed out so far.

Ambassador Vadym Prystaiko told lawmakers that “if you can vote for some temporary releasing of us from these rules, to allow people to get here, we will take care of (them).”

Britain’s Conservative government says it is prepared to take in hundreds of thousands of refugees from Ukraine. As of Wednesday, there had been 22,000 visa applications. But the number of visas granted was just below 1,000, with the rest of the applications still being processed.

In contrast, 2,500 Ukrainian refugees have already arrived in Ireland, whose population is a tenth of the U.K.’s

ADVERTISEMENT

Critics say Britain’s asylum system is in chaos, with reports of Ukrainians struggling to get the paperwork to let them join family and friends in Britain.

European Union nations are allowing Ukrainians to live and work for up to three years without having to go through a formal asylum-seeking process. The U.K., which left the bloc last year, isn’t waiving the paperwork, saying applicants must submit biometric data for security reasons.

Ukrainians arriving at the English Channel port of Calais in France have been told to apply at British missions in Paris or Brussels, while others say they have been waiting for days for appointments at U.K. embassies in eastern Europe.

The British government says it is setting up a new visa center in Lille, northwest France, that will start work on Thursday. Defense Secretary Ben Wallace said Wednesday that he has offered to lend troops to the Home Office to help speed up the process.

Ukrainians based in Britain can bring over family members, including spouses, parents and children. The government has also announced a separate route for groups in the U.K. to sponsor Ukrainian refugees, but details of that were still being worked out.

The United Nations says more than 2 million people have fled the war in Ukraine, in what it calls Europe’s fastest-growing refugee crisis since World War II.

___

Follow the AP’s coverage of the Russia-Ukraine war at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine