When Dr Paul Hanlon and his wife Rebecca Shepherd, an anatomy lecturer, saw the plight faced by people caught up in the war, they applied to the government’s Homes for Ukraine scheme in March.
“When we first signed up, we thought it would only be days before we welcomed some refugees so we cleared some rooms out to make more space and made a list of things to buy but then it became obvious that the process was going to take much longer,” said Dr Hanlon who works at Lancaster Medical Practice.
The Hanlons spent time trying to find a family to help and finally were paired up with a mum and some teenage boys who had fled to Italy.
The mum, Olesia, has two sons, aged 16 and 3 and had also agreed to become legal guardian to 16-year-old Vladyslav as both his parents weren’t able to leave Ukraine and
were scared for their son’s life.
As the children speak English but no Italian, Olesia applied for the Homes for Ukraine scheme.
The Hanlons ‘met’ the group online and began sorting out the complicated paperwork required.
“It’s all been extremely stressful and time consuming, taking hours on administration and communication,” explained Dr Hanlon.
The main obstacle is the government’s current refusal to extend eligibility for the scheme to allow Ukrainian refugees to enter the UK with children of friends who were unable to leave Ukraine themselves.
Dr Hanlon is in contact with 40 other sponsors in a similar situation and has set up a petition calling on the government to take urgent action in these cases.
“The safeguarding concerns are reasonable but there’s dozens of vulnerable Ukrainian children around Europe who want to come to the UK and are being left to fend for
Vlad, Olesia and her two children are currently living in cramped one-bedroom accommodation in Italy.
The Hanlons, who live in Quernmore with their children aged one and five, are determined not to give up on their hope of homing refugees and have launched a legal action on behalf of the Ukrainian group who want to live with them.
Their solicitor was asked by the Home Office for more time to consider the case but after the deadline passed, a barrister is now preparing for a judicial review against the Home
Office which could take weeks.
The Hanlons have also sought the help of Lancaster MP, Cat Smith who raised the case with the Home Office’s MP Urgent Ukraine Enquiries team twice but so far has not received a satisfactory response.
Ms Smith also wrote to Home Secretary, Priti Patel about their situation in early May but is still awaiting a reply.
She hopes to raise the issue in parliament if selected for Home Office questions.
“The government has made shamefully slow progress on Ukrainian refugees,” said Ms Smith.
“Less than a quarter of Ukrainian refugees issued with a visa have actually arrived in the UK.
"The British public have shown strong support, but shambolic Home Office bureaucracy and delays are letting everyone down.”
Anyone wishing to sign Dr Hanlon’s petition, can visit here