Residents of North Moreton – a village in the South Oxfordshire district – have expressed their frustration with visa delays for Ukrainian refugees, after preparing homes for 45 refugees, but only housing one adult and two children so far.
The project is being coordinated by experienced fundraiser Polly Vacher, 78, with the help of sponsors from 16 households across North Moreton, which is home to around 350 people.
Mrs Vacher said 16 different people in the village have offered to host but have been left frustrated by bureaucracy which has delayed the arrival of all but three refugees.
“I think the Government are in a real mess… It seems almost as if they don’t want them,” she told the PA news agency.
“We had one family who were meant to come over but they couldn’t wait any longer and instead went to Italy, where they were welcomed with open arms and no visas.
“For the first time in my life, I feel embarrassed to be British. I’m so proud of what we did with the vaccination rollout for COVID, but if you look at how this has been handled, it’s a disaster.”
Across the UK, new figures showed just 12,000 have so far reached Britain, despite receiving 79,800 visa applications from Ukrainians for visas and issued a total of 40,900 visas.
Home secretary Priti Patel apologised “with frustration” over the time it is taking for Ukrainian refugees to arrive in the UK under visa schemes. However, she denied claims that the visa requirements were causing unnecessary delays, insisting the UK will “absolutely see changes in numbers” as work continues.
Mrs Vacher said the idea behind getting the whole village involved was to make sure the refugees had a ready-made community of fellow Ukrainians when they arrived in the country. She addes that those who could not host offered what services they could, including counselling, English lessons and cooking meals.
Despite the increasing frustration with the visa delays, South Oxfordshire and Vale of White Horse district councils have also announced they will be providing focussed support for Ukrainian refugees.
In Oxfordshire, over 200 visas have been issued under the Homes for Ukraine Sponsorship Scheme as of 06 April. The breakdown across the districts is as follows:
South Oxfordshire 57
West Oxfordshire 40
Vale of White Horse 39
The councils will be contacting all potential hosts as soon as possible.