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More than 500 Ukrainian youngsters who escaped the fighting without their parents are caught in limbo across Europe after applying to the Homes for Ukraine scheme.
According to sources close to the Home Office, the majority are teens who believed they would be qualified and who have British families eager to welcome them, but have received no word from the Home Office.
Due to indecision over how to handle their cases, many people have been waiting for two months or more without receiving a response. Some are stranded in Europe after leaving home with the expectation of joining a British family eager to welcome them. Others are with adult siblings or family friends who have been appointed legal guardians but are nonetheless unable to visit.
According to sources, about 25 unaccompanied children were permitted into the UK within the first two weeks of the Homes For Ukraine scheme, and as a result, they were placed in care.
Despite the fact that the policy now states that children cannot travel without their parents unless accompanied by a legal guardian, the Home Office has yet to make a decision or provide a solution to all individuals who applied before the policy was established. Even teenagers traveling with adults who have been appointed as their legal guardians are caught up in the gridlock.
“I have only this week highlighted concerns in a letter to the immigration minister on the government’s approach on unaccompanied youngsters, but this latest evidence underlines the potential enormity of the problem,” said Stephen Kinnock, the shadow immigration minister.
“We realize that the government must conduct thorough safeguarding checks, but we have a specific query regarding why extended delays are still occurring in cases where a parent has previously completed the necessary papers authorizing their kid to be placed in the care of a relative.”
The Guardian reported earlier this month on Nazarii, 17, who was waiting for a decision from the Home Office while listening to combat planes fly overhead in his village in western Ukraine. He had submitted his application on April 11 and a teaching assistant and her family in Hampshire were ready to host him, but he had heard nothing since.
He is still in Ukraine, more than three weeks later, with no rejection or news. “I haven’t received any information from the Home Office.” “I’m at a loss,” he said. “It’s fine if it’s a refusal, but it’s impossible without any information.”
“We know of far too many children who are currently stranded in limbo, alone in Ukraine and neighboring countries, who are yearning to join their sponsors here in the UK,” Beth Gardiner-Smith, the chief executive of the child refugee organization Safe Passage, said. This is unacceptable because it puts lone children in dangerous and vulnerable situations, putting them at risk of exploitation.”
According to Gardiner-Smith, the government should expand the Homes for Ukraine program to include unaccompanied children by collaborating with local governments and NGOs to ensure child safety. Even those who have British hosts who are willing to foster children have been unable to make a decision. Timothy Tymoshenko, a severely autistic 16-year-old, is one of them, according to the Guardian, who is currently waiting in Poland to join a British foster carer.
The situation is so grave, according to insiders, that it was the main topic of discussion at the most recent weekly meeting of MPs’ offices with the Home Office.
“It is disturbing to hear that unaccompanied minors seeking to leave Ukraine for their own safety are waiting so long for visas when I know that there are foster carers like my own family and other appropriate hosts in the UK who are willing to care for them,” Krish Kandiah, the founder of the Sanctuary Foundation, which is supporting British hosts in the Homes for Ukraine scheme, said.
“Unaccompanied minors are only eligible under the Homes for Ukraine scheme if they are reconnecting with a parent or legal guardian in the UK,” a government spokeswoman stated.
“The Ukrainian government has made it plain that children should not be taken from Ukraine without their parents, and that relocating a kid from their native region must be in the best interests of the child.”