FIRST Minister Nicola Sturgeon has criticised the “woefully small” number of visas granted to Ukrainian refugees by the UK Government.

Data published on Friday showed that there had been 32,000 applications made to the Homes for Ukraine scheme - but that only 4700 visas have been issued.

A tiny 210 visas related to those coming to Scotland, 180 of which were individuals and the other 30 “super sponsors”.

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The First Minister said that the process was “unacceptably slow” and said that the UK was letting down Ukrainians fleeing the conflict with Russia.

The process needs to be sped up, the FM said, as there is a “clear and urgent need”.

It also comes as a Scottish charity warned that female refugees fleeing Ukraine are at risk of exploitation and that they had received reports of young Ukrainian women being offered refuge and accommodation in exchange for sex.

The figures also revealed that out of 65,000 total UK applications across both Family and Sponsorship (Homes for Ukraine) schemes, 29,200 total visas have been issued.

The National:

The FM at the Ukrainian club in Edinburgh last month

The First Minister said: “Two weeks on from opening the Homes for Ukraine scheme, the process of translating applications into visas is unacceptably slow.

“There are well over three million displaced Ukrainians - a few hundred visas just isn’t good enough.

“The UK Government is letting the people of Ukraine down and also letting down people across Scotland who have opened their homes.

“There is a clear and urgent need to speed up the processing of applications and the granting of visas.

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“It is essential that the UK Government addresses these lengthy delays to provide rapid support to those in need

“In the midst of a harrowing conflict, it is neither reasonable nor morally acceptable to expect people fleeing a brutal invasion to go through the bureaucratic processes being put in their way and wait weeks to be given a visa.

“We have called for the need for visas to be waived so displaced people could immediately reach a place of safety, just as our European neighbours have done.

“The UK Government could still do that - it would solve the delays immediately and allow people to reach the UK and find the safety and support they need.”

The National:

The FM urged the UK government to move faster on awarding visas to refugees

A UK Government spokesperson said: “We are moving as quickly as possible to ensure that those fleeing Ukraine can find safety in the UK through the Ukraine Family Scheme and Homes for Ukraine.

“We have streamlined the process so valid passport holders do not have to attend in-person appointments before arriving in the UK, simplified our forms and boosted caseworker numbers, while ensuring vital security checks are carried out.

“We continue to speed up visa processing across both schemes, with over 29,000 visas issued in the last three weeks alone and thousands more expected to come through these uncapped routes.”