Europe

‘We want her to get to safety’ – Frustrated family hoping for visa for young Viktoria

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She has stayed with the Kilgours before. But when they offered to give her a safe home after the war started they met “layer after layer of bureaucracy.” In her fight to get her to safety Rev Jenny Kilgour has been in contact with her council, the Ukrainian Embassy in London, a range of Government departments, 65 MPs, barristers, refugee charities and Richard Harrington, Minister for Refugees.

Her granddaughters – Sophia 15, and Elisia, 12 – have also helped. Rev Kilgour said: “Every time we meet one set of Government criteria, another pops up. Her family must feel the UK just doesn’t want her here. We just want to get her to safety.”

The clergywoman has already hosted Viktoria on a series of exchange schemes. But despite these close links the teenager has been unable to secure a visa because she was classed as an “unaccompanied minor.”

Last month the Government ruled that Ukrainian children could enter the UK without a parent or guardian under its Homes for Ukraine Scheme. A thousand youngsters, including Viktoria, previously had their entry blocked.

Support for her has come from Sheffield South East MP Clive Betts, who chairs the cross-party committee which scrutinises the Ukraine visa programme.

Last week Mr Betts’s office confirmed Rev Kilgour, from near Exeter, could expect a decision about Viktoria’s visa approval tomorrow – as long as she would be prepared to look after her for up to three years if granted a visa.

“If her visa comes through tomorrow it will be brilliant,” said Rev Kilgour.

“Her parents would put her straight on a plane – but if there are any problems with flights we will drive out to Ukraine and pick her up.”

“We can’t wait to see her again.”

“We’ve completed everything that has been asked of us. We are happy for her to stay as long as she needs to and would do anything to ensure she is safe.”

“I message Vicky daily about normal stuff, like family and the weather. But it’s heartbreaking to hear a 17-year-old girl talking of air raid sirens in the same breath as exam revision.”

“The strain must be terrible. I think of Sophia and Elisia here and I just long to hold Vicky in my arms.”

“Not knowing whether a bomb will destroy your home and family must take a daily toll on the mental health of a young woman.”

Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper said: “There have been too many cases of Ukrainian teenagers unable to travel to safety because UK rules are too restrictive. We need a system to help parents unable to leave Ukraine themselves, but who desperately want to get their children to safety with friends or relatives.”

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