Homes For Ukraine whistleblower says UK refugee scheme is ‘designed to fail’ | Ukraine

A whistleblower engaged on Britain’s Homes for Ukraine scheme has revealed that he and his colleagues “don’t know what we’re doing”, and claims the scheme has been “designed to fail” with a view to restrict numbers coming into the UK.

Amid criticism over the numbers of Ukrainians thus far allowed to come back to the UK, the insider revealed that confusion, poor morale and lack of steering meant employees contracted to the scheme ceaselessly resorted to “making up” their response to instances.

Staff engaged on the helpline for the scheme – launched after widespread fury over the UK authorities’s preliminary response to the Ukrainian refugee disaster – revealed that they acquired solely three hours of coaching with no follow-up assist, and mentioned any criticism or suggestion to enhance the system was met with silence.

“We don’t really know what we’re doing,” mentioned the supply, who works for the non-public firm chargeable for processing the documentation of Ukrainian refugees. “The system is designed, it would appear, for people to fail. They want to keep the numbers down. Everything they do feels as if it is to do that. I’ve even had a barrister and lawyers on the phone saying they couldn’t understand the system.”

The whistleblower questioned the official authorities knowledge on Ukrainian refugees, claiming the statistics seemed that ministers had been being extra beneficiant than they had been in actuality.

The supply, talking on situation of anonymity, mentioned he had handled quite a few instances the place UK visas had been issued for a whole Ukrainian household aside from one baby, which in impact stopped the household travelling to the UK.

“This allows the government to say we’ve issued lots of visas. Yet, because they have withheld one, it’s a guarantee those Ukrainians won’t travel,” mentioned the supply.

The whistleblower mentioned he got here throughout 4 or 5 instances every day during which a single baby from a household had not acquired permission to journey, a sample he believed was “too much of a coincidence” for it to not have been inspired.

A authorities supply mentioned that household purposes had been “normally processed together” however instances differed in complexity, and that safeguarding processes had been in place to guard kids from trafficking.

Latest authorities figures present that 40,000 UK visas have been issued beneath the Homes for Ukraine scheme because it was launched 5 weeks in the past – but simply 6,600 Ukrainians have truly arrived.

One sponsor who supplied a spot in her residence for a mom and daughter from Borodyanka – a small city north of Kyiv that was devastated throughout the Russian invasion – instructed the Observer the kid had nonetheless not acquired their visa after a month.

Katerina Lisenkova, who can be a volunteer serving to Ukrainians come to the UK, mentioned they’d utilized for a visa for the pair on 21 March and, though the mom acquired one “quickly”, the daughter had not and each had been stranded in Poland.

Hours after the Observer raised the case with the federal government final Friday, the daughter acquired permission to journey to the UK. On Saturday, British sponsors described being at their “wits’ end” after a Ukrainian mom who was as a result of keep of their residence acquired a visa however her kids, together with a four-year-old daughter, had been left ready.

A protester holds a ‘Waive UK Visas’ sign in Trafalgar Square
A protester in Trafalgar Square this month. The authorities has been criticised over the variety of Ukrainians it has thus far allowed into the UK. Photograph: Vuk Valcic/Shutterstock

Lisenkova mentioned she was conscious of 700 purposes beneath the Homes for Ukraine scheme that had nonetheless not acquired a response, many courting from when the scheme was launched.

The whistleblower is employed by a Paris-based multinational known as Teleperformance, which additionally owns consular companies firm TLScontact. The latter has been criticised for selling paid companies to Ukrainians making use of for visas.

The supply, who has been engaged on the scheme’s hotline for a month, mentioned: “So far I have had two phone calls from Ukrainian women in tears who say their experiences have left them feeling that they won’t be welcomed by the UK government and therefore they don’t want to come here any more. That’s tough when you hear that.”

He claimed that calls from potential sponsors and candidates to the Homes for Ukraine scheme hardly ever seemed to be recorded.

“I’ve taken one call since I’ve been here out of hundreds, possibly thousands, in which it said ‘recording’ before the person came through, the source said. “I used to work on the Covid 119 lines, where everything was recorded.

“The Covid line was far more structured: there was a very fixed set of rules, with lots of information for us. On the Ukrainian line, we have no information.”

However, he mentioned Teleperformance was not fully in charge for the issues referring to the Ukrainian scheme, as a result of the agency was primarily working to the specs of the UK authorities.

“Teleperformance is the client. It is just fulfilling whatever it is that’s asked of them.”

But he mentioned any complaints to the agency’s administration seemed to be ignored: “We get zero response and if there is an attempt to tweak it or make it better, we are certainly not told about it. Communication is nonexistent.”

The resultant sentiment amongst employees, the supply mentioned, was frustration.

“Colleagues I’ve spoken to feel the same way. We are all feeling pretty exasperated,” he added.

The scheme’s helpline goals to information candidates by means of the sponsor course of and assist them with inputting the information required for a profitable consequence. However, the federal government has the ultimate say who will get a visa and is allowed to enter the UK.

A authorities spokesperson mentioned that, when mixed with its Ukraine Family Scheme, a complete of 71,800 visas had been granted, with 21,600 Ukrainians arriving within the UK.

They added: “We are processing thousands of visas a day – this shows that the changes we made to streamline the service are working and we will continue to build on this success so we can speed up the process even further.”

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