The Home Office’s “resistance” to accepting Ukrainians and administrative hurdles are causing “fugitive families to suffer even more”, a Ukrainian volunteer in Scotland has warned.
Yevgen Gorash, who runs the Ukrainian community support group in Glasgow, said it was a “huge disappointment” that it remains so difficult for refugees to come to the UK.
A research fellow in mechanical and aerospace engineering at the University of Strathclyde, Mr Gorash spoke to Scottish Prime Minister Nicola Sturgeon at the Ukrainian club in Edinburgh about the difficulties people face in obtaining visas and enter the UK legally.
The 40-year-old academic, from Ukraine’s second-largest city, Kharkiv, said there was ‘overwhelming support’ from Scots, the Scottish government and local councils providing shelter for Ukrainians, but that people are facing “administrative problems”. resistance” of the Ministry of the Interior.
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Speaking to the PA news agency, Mr Gorash said: ‘We have had hundreds of emails and messages from people in Glasgow and Scotland offering rooms to people arriving, they say they will provide accommodation and food and will house those who come.
“It’s not just citizens. Companies, hotels and hostels that accept to host people for free.
“It’s not just 100 per cent, it’s more like 200 per cent support on one side, but it’s not easy when the border is practically sealed and it’s not easy for people to get here.
“This is the main topic we discussed with the Prime Minister this morning.”
He told PA: “Our main disappointment is that there are still many obstacles from the Home Office and they are still unresolved.
“The legal pathways are only open to people who have parents, relatives and extended family here, but they still need to apply for a visa and that’s a major problem.
“It was not easy to apply for any type of tourist visa in normal times, but now it is an extraordinary time and these poor people, women and children, have to spend hours in the queue to sort the papers and then we wait for the decision.
“It only contributes to the tragedy, because they are already exhausted when they arrive in Poland, Slovakia, Romania, and then they have to suffer even more just spending hours and hours in queues in the consulates.
“I think most of us think it would be a lot easier if all security checks, biometrics and documents could be done somewhere at airports.
“It would be easy to organize a hub in England and Scotland, for example Prestwick airport, where all the people would come and then they would meet the relatives and all this visa approval process would be done in the UK .
“At least that way we would certainly know that our loved ones are safe and in British territory, but there is still resistance from the Home Office to doing so.”
Mr Gorash, who has lived in Glasgow for 10 years, now runs the Glasgow version of the Edinburgh Ukrainian club where the Prime Minister met volunteers and helped pack nappies for shipment to Ukraine.
However, the Glasgow branch of the organization does not have a physical base – which was discussed with Ms Sturgeon who said the Scottish Government would look into whether they could find or provide premises for their work.
He said he started volunteering when Russia annexed Crimea and occupied Donbass in 2014, when there were around 30 active members, but since the last Russian invasion around 500 Ukrainians living in Glasgow have come forward .
“The response to the aggressive and brutal things happening in Ukraine has just been shock and anger,” Gorash told the AP.
“It is almost unimaginable that a great nation would have decided to erase another nation from history, but it is Russia – a country ruled by a dictator and a total authoritarian that has the media under its control.
“The propaganda says that Ukraine is not a nation, is not a country and that we have to be liberated. But liberated from whom? From themselves? It’s so shocking.”
Mr Gorash said his parents felt “relatively safe” in a largely residential part of Kharkiv despite the widespread destruction caused by shelling in the city center and were keen to stay “unless it becomes catastrophic and they really need to leave.”
He said he saw his old school “completely destroyed” after it was hit by an artillery shell, although no one was inside when it was targeted.
Through social media, Gorash says he sees friends and compatriots in the country’s territorial defense force being quickly trained and armed with automatic rifles and anti-tank weapons.
He said: “There is a massive effort underway and military support and weapons from around the world are coming in.
“We hope that they will defend our land and that the Russian army will be pushed back to the Russian border.”