“I’m a patriot,” Tony Kearne says. “I thought it was my chance to stand up and help people with trauma.”
“I’m too old to fight,” added the 59-year-old. “So I want to do the best and help women and children who are in danger, while their husbands are fighting.”
Taking the opportunity to help Ukrainian refugees, Tony and his girlfriend joined the government’s sponsorship program to start housing a family as soon as possible.
They were paired with Kateryna Omnurfryk and her mother Natalya Omnurfryk, along with three young children.
But the beds Tony prepared weeks ago are still empty as he waits for the Home Office to grant the Omnurfryk family their visas.
Tony had made the visa applications for the Omnurfryks himself, but 40 days later only four out of five visas were granted, leaving the family stranded in Poland.
“Four visas have been approved, but the fifth has not, which of course traps them as they can only travel as a full family,” he says.
In the meantime, the Omnurfryks are out of money as they wait for the Interior Ministry to issue the final visa.
Tony has now spent over £2,500 providing them with shelter and essentials such as food and diapers.
Tony says Kateryna “never, ever asked for money”, but without financial support their only option is to “go back to Ukraine”.
He says he will be happy to spend the money if it means getting his sponsored family to the UK safely, but he cannot forgive the government for the delays.
“The slowness, and the bureaucracy, and the speed bumps, and the lack of communication. I got up, but now I feel attached by the government,” Tony says.
These are sentiments shared by Derek Atkins, who sponsors Zoryana Fesyk and her three children, ages 11, 13 and 17, and who applied for sponsorship on March 29.
“As we embarked on this journey, I was thrilled to support this family,” says Derek. “But I’ll be honest, I didn’t think it would cost £2,500.”
With help from family and friends, Derek says he got his house ready for his new guests more than a month ago.
“But instead of this family being in it, we had to spend £2,500 on hotels and hostels in Warsaw.”
He says he emailed and called “every helpline we could think of” for weeks, but says the whole system has been an “absolute disgrace”.
“I feel so strongly that this government has been a total disgrace with this whole thing. And I speak for hundreds of people,” said Derek.
Enver Solomon, CEO of The Refugee Council, says the current visa regime is “not fit for purpose”.
“I find it appalling that the British public has had to put their hands in their own pockets to pay for people because they couldn’t get to the UK soon.”
He says he thinks the government has relied heavily on the goodwill of the British public, who are willing to open “their hearts and homes” to Ukrainians fleeing war.
But says the government has not provided easy, safe and fast routes for Ukrainians to get to the UK.
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A spokesman for the Home Office told Sky News: “The British public has risen with great generosity to welcome thousands of Ukrainians into their homes, and sponsoring households are receiving a thank you payment of £350 a month for hosting. expectation that people should pay for hotel rooms to accommodate Ukrainians.
“Over 95,000 visas have been issued to date by the Home Office, with over 37,000 Ukrainians arriving safely to the UK, and thanks to the changes made to streamline the service, we are now processing thousands of visas a day. .”