Ukrainian Ambassador shames UK 'bureaucratic hassle' for visas 'My wife couldn't get in'

UKRAINE’s Ambassador Vadym Prystaiko insisted the UK’s visa processing program has “always been a bureaucratic hassle” for his compatriots, including his own wife.

Ukraine: Prystaiko slams UK’s ‘bureaucratic hassle’ over visas

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The Ukrainian top diplomat was giving evidence in front of the Home Affairs Committee amid ongoing criticism of the Home Office’s scheme to process visa applications from Ukrainian refugees. Vadym Prystaiko conceded his country already struggled with the “bureaucratic hassle” before Russia forced at least two million people to flee Ukraine. Mr Prystaiko said: “Visa centres were the issue a long, long time ago, even before the war.

“You used to produce visas in Ukraine, in Kyiv, which allowed all Ukrainians to get it but it is, by territory, the biggest country in Europe so even travelling to one particular place was a hassle already.

“Then you moved it to Poland. It was much more difficult to get to Poland, then you moved it all the way to this island.

“To process visas was always a bureaucratic hassle. Even when I was coming here as ambassador, I got my visa on time although I was already approved by your Government, my wife didn’t have it.”

He continued: “Even simple things like that, bureaucracy is so though. 

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Prystaiko admitted UK visa processing was already a “bureaucratic hassle” before the war (Image: PARLIAMENT TV)

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Pystaiko said his even his wife struggled to get a visa timely when they moved to the UK (Image: PARLIAMENT TV)

“When we reached an agreement of a visa-free regime with the Europeans, which worked quite beautifully for 10 years, we never managed to open to this particular nation.

“I know you have strict immigration policies but the Europeans also had them at the same time.

“And we opened up to your citizens in 2005.”

The UK opened up the Ukraine Family Scheme and Local Sponsorship Scheme for Ukraine following Russia’s invasion on February 24.

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However, since the war refugees have reported several difficulties in securing access to a processing centre and only 5 percent of applications have so far been approved.

People applying under the Ukraine Family scheme are currently being asked to apply online and then book an appointment to present their biometric data at a visa application centre.

Offices in Kyiv and Lviv were shut down because of the ongoing war, so further centre were set up in Rzeszow, Poland, with another due to be established in Lille.

But the relatives of escaping refugees trying to bring their family to the UK have questioned the decision to establish the new office 70 miles away from Calais, where people can access the quickest route into the country from the continent.

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Ukraine’s invasion has seen over two million people fleeing (Image: GETTY)

Home Secretary Priti Patel told MPs on Monday: “I can confirm that we have set up a bespoke VAC en route to Calais but away from the port because we have to prevent that surge taking place.”

But she later told the Commons the Government is still “setting up” the visa application centre (VAC), adding there was a need to avoid creating “choke points” in Calais and instead “encourage a smooth flow of people”, as concerns were raised over Ukrainians being turned away from the French port city.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said the Government is stepping up the pace of admissions for refugees fleeing Ukraine.

Mr Shapps acknowledged there were “lessons to be learned” in its response to the crisis which has seen more than two million people flee Ukraine.

He however claimed President Volodymyr Zelensky wanted as many people as possible to remain in the region so they could quickly return to rebuild the country when it is safe to do so.

The Transport Secretary told Sky News: “President Zelensky and the Ukrainian government have told me that they do not want people to move far away, if at all possible, from the country, because they want people to be able to come back.

“We are really leaning into this, at the same time respecting Ukraine’s wishes, the government’s wishes, not to pull people a long way away from Ukraine.”

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