'It's really upsetting': Homes for Ukraine scheme 'ineffective' and 'embarrassing'

Deborah Brown, of Crouch End, and her husband Nick

Deborah Brown, of Crouch End, and her husband Nick - Credit: Deborah Brown

A Crouch End doctor who is due to take in a Ukrainian woman has hit out at the government's sponsorship scheme, which she said is slow to process visas and places refugees in precarious situations.

When Deborah Brown first heard of Homes for Ukraine, where UK residents sponsors people fleeing the war, she signed up immediately.

"I'm someone whose ancestors came over in the pogroms from Eastern Europe," she said. "I have a sense how this country depends on refugees."

In Crouch End, Deborah found like-minded families also sponsoring Ukrainians. The group has been "amazing", but of the 40 people who applied for visas, many are still waiting for them to be approved. Homes for Ukraine started on March 14.

Group of 20 people meeting inside a dimly lit pub

The community support group comprises about 50 residents living in N6, N8, N4, N22 who are horrified at the war in Ukraine and want to welcome refugees into their homes. - Credit: Maksym Demydenko

"It's been horrific. You've raised hopes in the process and then they're stuck in limbo. Some of them are in precarious accommodation," Deborah said.

Selfie of a middle aged woman with short ginger hair, wearing a green blazer with an NHS badge

Deborah believes sponsorship to be an "ineffective" method of welcoming refugees in large numbers to the UK. - Credit: Deborah Brown

She said how some refugees are holding out in Ukraine to get a UK visa instead of leaving their country, which could leave them in a more unsafe situation.

Members in the group have had "sleepless nights" worrying about their refugees.

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Filling out visa documents proved to be laborious. It took Deborah two and a half hours on Zoom, and that was with someone who had her documents and a reliable internet connection. The visa was approved on Tuesday (April 12).

Deborah is taking in a young woman who is waiting in Czech Republic, with no job or family, for the UK to send a letter allowing her to travel.

Study with big sash windows, a sofa bed, small wooden desk with drawers and a comfy arm chair

The room in Deborah's house that her sponsored Ukrainian will live in. - Credit: Deborah Brown

"Sponsorship as a system is not an effective way to get large numbers into this country. I'm extremely angry with the government," she said.

A government spokesperson said: “We continue to process visas for the Homes for Ukraine scheme as quickly as possible, but accept progress has not been quick enough.

"The Home Office has made changes to visa processing – the application form has been streamlined, Ukrainian passport holders can now apply online and do their biometrics checks once in the UK, and greater resource has gone into the system.

Catherine West, MP for Hornsey and Wood Green, said: "It’s a mess but sadly it’s everything we’ve come to expect from Priti Patel’s Home Office which is designed to be hostile to refugees seeking sanctuary.

"There’s no sense of prioritisation or urgency and it’s shameful."