A ten year old girl trying to reach Scotland to be with her father after fleeing a Ukrainian city under attack from Russia’s army has reached Poland.
Alisa Achkasova – who left her home in Ukraine’s second largest city Kharkiv – is now safe in the Polish city of Krakow.
Her father, Alex Achkasov, a Ukrainian-British national living in Carnoustie, Angus, is trying to arrange for Alisa, her mother, Yana, and grandmother, Viktoriia, to come to the UK as refugees.
As reported by The Ferret, the family fled their home in Kharkiv after Russia’s military forces targeted Ukraine’s second largest city with bombs and missiles.
The Home Office has been condemned for its response to the Ukrainian refugee crisis and it emerged today Britain has accepted just 50 Ukrainians so far – about one per cent of the 5,535 people who have applied since the programme launched 48 hours earlier.
They were granted visas under a scheme for refugees with family links to the UK, the Home Office said.
Achkasov told The Ferret: “They (his family) are safe in Poland but it could take a while as the UK system is very bureaucratic. I have been trying to apply on their behalf and the earliest I can book an appointment is next week. “
“But under the current guidelines Viktoriia will not be allowed to come to the UK as in-laws do not qualify. You can only come if you are a direct relative.”
He added: “Viktoriia wanted to stay in the Ukraine, but Yana screamed and shouted at her to join, so she changed her mind at the last minute.
“If the UK visa falls through, Viktoriia will stay in Poland until visa restrictions are lifted, or perhaps she will have to stay in Poland. Or even go to family friends in other countries, like Germany. It would be good to bring her to the UK though. She is a good woman, who lost everything.”
Alex’s father and mother are still in Kharkiv, however, and they do not want to leave their home despite a grave threat to their lives from Russia’s military which is reported to have fired rockets today at a physics institute in the city that contains nuclear material.
Achkasov added: “Only my parents are left behind now, which is heartbreaking, but that is the way it is. Dad said ‘we will stay, come what may’. I tried to persuade him today again, in vain.” Apparently the central heating is damaged and the temperature is about to drop to minus 10 degrees.
Announcing the Ukraine Family Scheme last week, Home Secretary Priti Patel said: “Our expanded Ukraine Family Scheme is now fully open and to see the first people who will apply was wonderful. While we want people to be able to return to their homes at the end of this diabolical invasion, giving thousands of people a route to the UK is the right thing to do.”
Critics said the policy fell significantly short of the UK’s international obligations, however, and that it was ungenerous in comparison to the EU, which has pledged to welcome refugees with “open arms”.
France accused the UK of a “lack of humanity” and said that 150 Ukrainian refugees were turned back at Calais for lacking a visa.
On Monday the Disasters Emergency Committee announced its Ukraine appeal had raised more than £100m in four days.
Image thanks to iStock/Ivan Halkin