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London shuts down family visa program for Kyiv refugees

By JULIAN SHEA in London | China Daily Global | Updated: 2024-02-26 09:42

Ukrainian refugee Liudmyla (Mila) Panchenko, who resides in Hatfield, stands at a bus station in Welwyn Garden City, Britain, Feb 21, 2024. [Photo/Agencies]

A British government visa program allowing people from Ukraine to join family members who are already in the United Kingdom has been closed to new applications.

More than 200,000 people have come to the UK since the outbreak of the conflict, with new arrivals initially given three-year visas.

The government announced in mid-February an 18-month visa extension for those already in the country, a move which it said would provide "certainty and stability", and which was described by Eduard Fesko, the charge d'affaires at the Ukrainian embassy in London, as "a clear signal of the continuous support". But last week, at short notice, the family program was closed.

Previously, it had allowed about 72,000 people to join family members already in the UK, or to extend their stay here, but now only permanent UK residents or people permanently settled will be able to act as sponsors, meaning Ukrainians in the country on visas cannot bring in family members through the Homes for Ukraine sponsorship program.

"The lack of options for Ukrainian and other families separated by war and persecution is already a huge problem," said Enver Solomon, chief executive of the Refugee Council.

Tom Cottam, head of policy for the British Red Cross, called the decision "concerning", and Stephen Kinnock, the opposition Labour Party's shadow immigration minister, said it "sends the wrong message" to the people of Ukraine.

The Home Office said the plan aims to adapt the system to make it "as efficient and sustainable as possible".

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