DESPITE the Prime Minister’s claims today the UK is being as “generous as we can” to Ukrainian refugees, its chaotic response to the crisis will leave families "desparate" as they face delays and confusion trying to enter Britain. 

Home Office minister Kevin Foster said on Tuesday only around 500 visas have been given to Ukrainians – mostly women and children – but the scheme has received more than 10,000 applications since it opened on March 4.

The Tories have faced calls, including from within their own ranks, to allow in any Ukrainians seeking refuge in Britain.

But this has been shot down by the Home Office which claims such an approach could pose security risks to the UK.

What are Ukrainian refugees facing?

Ukrainians who have fled the country are mostly women and children – men between the ages of 18 to 60 have been barred from leaving the country and are expected to fight against the invading Russian army.

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Many have been taken in by Poland, Hungary and Romania but hundreds are facing delays and uncertainty in France, where they have travelled to in the hope of entering the UK.

The Government has set up the Ukraine Family Scheme to facilitate Ukrainians to live with family members in Britain.

But there are numerous reports of a chaotic situation in Calais – with families being turned away by UK Border Force agents due to a lack of paperwork and have been told they must travel more than 100 miles to Paris or Brussels to get a visa.

How do the refugees feel?

The Government has been careful not to refer to Ukrainians fleeing conflict as refugees because it wants to abandon its commitments to refugees under international law, according to Professor Alison Phipps, an expert in refugee integration at Glasgow University.

The National:

Prof Phipps said refugees met with UK bureaucracy on the continent would be feeling “really angry”, and “desperate”.

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“It’s a war – everything’s gone that you used to trust,” she said.

“All the doors are shut. You can’t think straight, you don’t know what to do, you don’t know where to turn, you’re increasingly desperate.”

The way Ukrainian refugees are being treated has been the norm for around a decade, said Prof Phipps, but it’s unlikely to last given the significant pressure on the Government to relax its regime.

She added: “We’ve seen a change and a slackening of what they initially announced every single day.

“There is every chance there will be enough pressure.”

But by requiring refugees to have visas and paperwork in the first instance, the UK is breaking the UN convention on refugees, Prof Phipps said.

She added: “The UK has effectively come out of the refugee convention because it is the country in Europe requiring visas for entry."

READ MORE: UK Government 'berates' Ireland for opening borders to Ukrainian refugees

Crisis in Calais

Yvette Cooper, the shadow home secretary, said on Tuesday there were 600 people in Calais “who have been turned back”.

The National:

She claimed just 250 visas were being issued per day – against a backdrop of around two million Ukrainian refugees, hundreds of thousands of whom have found sanctuary in other European countries.

And there is confusion around the UK Government’s response to this situation after the Home Secretary told MPs yesterday that a visa centre “en route” to Calais had been set up.

Patel later clarified these comments and said a centre would be set up in Lille – nearly 72 miles from Calais.

Cooper called on the Government to set up visa centres at “all major travel points”.

Chaos in Poland

Elsewhere, reports emerged on Tuesday that queues were forming outside a UK visa application centre in Rzezsow, Poland.

The National:

In temperatures of -3, people waited outside the centre for more than three hours, LBC reported from the scene.

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The broadcaster said there was “plenty of room inside” the building but the crowd was not allowed to enter.

The situation there was described as “complete chaos” by Labour MP Clive Efford.

The Home Office said people gathered at the centre should have tried to book an appointment online rather than going to the centre in person. 

Lies from the Home Office

And the Home Secretary was accused of lying over comments she made at the start of the week, where she told MPs there were Home Office staff working in Calais and a visa centre had already been set up “en route” to the city.

Tory MP Roger Gale said Patel’s statement was “untrue and under any normal administration that in itself would be a resignation [issue]”.

The National:

He added: “There is no visa centre at Lille yet, in spite of the fact that the Foreign Secretary earlier this morning said that there was.

“A week ago, the Home Secretary announced a humanitarian sponsorship visa, there is yet no humanitarian sponsorship visa.”

The Government was also urged to set up a visa waiver to allow refugees into the country immediately.

Stuart McDonald, the SNP’s home affairs spokesperson, said it was “time to stop messing about with the broken bureaucracy” as he demanded Ukrainians be allowed into Britain as quickly as possible.

What is the Government saying?

The Government has been arguing against waiving visas citing national security concerns.

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The National:

Foster invoked the memory of the Salisbury poisonings after telling MPs people were “presenting themselves at Calais pretending to be Ukrainian”.

He added: “We only need to look at some of the statements coming out of the Kremlin to see which countries are very much in the cross-hairs of Mr Putin’s Russia and regime, and also we have to look back a short period ago to see the impact on this country, in this country, of attacks by those pretending they had come here to look at a cathedral spire.”

The Government would not be drawn on allegations, reported in the Daily Telegraph on Tuesday, that the Home Office had objected to Ireland opening its doors to Ukrainians over fears it would allow illegal drugs to flow into the UK.