'I will continue to fight for my constituents who are welcoming Ukrainian refugees'

Ukrainian refugees cross the border point from Ukraine into Medyka, Poland, due to the Russian invas

The Home Office refuses to process visas for Ukrainian minors travelling without their parents - Credit: PA

As the war in Ukraine rages on, I have been struck by the selflessness of many of my constituents who have offered up their homes to host refugees.

Unfortunately, the generosity of my constituents has been obstructed by the Home Office’s failure to process visas for those who are fleeing Ukraine and seeking safe refuge in the UK.

Much of my casework in recent weeks has been about trying to resolve these issues for constituents who have applied to be sponsors through the Homes for Ukraine scheme so they can welcome refugees into their home.

One of the more shocking issues that I have been focusing on is the Home Office’s blanket refusal to process visas for Ukrainian minors travelling without their parents. I raised this with the prime minister in Parliament this month, highlighting the particularly harrowing case of one of my inspiring constituents Mark Falcon who is sponsoring two Ukrainian sisters, 13-year-old Mariia and 18-year-old Nataliia – to come to the UK.

Hampstead and Kilburn MP Tulip Siddiq

Tulip Siddiq is busy helping constituents willing to offer their homes to refugees - Credit: Office of Tulip Siddiq

The older sister’s permission to travel was granted, but the youngest’s was not because she was technically an unaccompanied minor.

The Home Office told us that Mariia could not come here without her parents, even though she had already left Ukraine and was travelling with her adult sister. As a result, Nataliia was separated from Mariia, who was forced to choose between staying in a dangerous temporary hostel in Montenegro or returning to her war-torn hometown.

This is not a one-off case. Many other Ukrainian child refugees have been turned away, putting them in grave danger and forcing some to return to besieged areas of Ukraine. I led a Westminster Hall debate on this issue this week to further push the government to rethink its approach.

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I am glad they have now indicated that the policy will change, but this should have come far sooner and the system must be improved for those who are already eligible.

I will continue to fight for my constituents who are welcoming refugees and those fleeing conflict who need a far more compassionate and sophisticated approach from government.

Tulip Siddiq is MP (Labour) for Hampstead and Kilburn.