A NORTH Yorkshire woman who signed up for the Homes for Ukraine scheme three weeks ago has urged the government to “not gamble with the lives of refugees” after being unable to bring a Ukrainian family over to the UK despite talking to them every day.

Like thousands of people across the UK, Alison Williams and her husband Mark from Crakehall, Bedale, registered their interest in the Homes for Ukraine scheme on Friday, March 18.

After signing up, Mrs Williams, a childminder by trade, prepared her home for the arrival of Ukrainians Anton, Natalie and their two children with the help of the local community, who generously donated furniture, clothes and even the offer of a lift into work.   

Read more: North Yorkshire couple prepare for arrival of Ukrainian family

Despite repeat suggestions that ‘her family’ would arrive in the UK on Friday, March 25 – two weeks later, this hasn’t materialised, and Mrs Williams is now looking for answers relating to the government’s “diabolical” response to Ukrainian refugees.

This has seen the North Yorkshire resident contact her local MP and chancellor of the exchequer, Rishi Sunak, four times with limited success – apart from a ‘generic’ response from his secretary.

She said: “After seeing an inspired response from local people after we told them all that we’re going to be receiving a Ukrainian family into our home, we’ve been let down by the government.   

The Northern Echo: Alison Williams, from Crakehall, Bedale. Picture: SARAH CALDECOTT.Alison Williams, from Crakehall, Bedale. Picture: SARAH CALDECOTT.

“Rishi Sunak’s secretary got back to me saying that he was looking into it – but actions speak louder than words.

“I’ve got a family in Ukraine hoping and praying they’ll be allowed over to the UK soon. It’s the wall of silence we’re getting from the government. Will it be tomorrow, will it be this way for another month? Who knows!

“This is people’s lives at stake – you can’t gamble with that.”

As well as becoming frustrated with the lack of response, Mrs Williams has also highlighted that the free flight scheme that airlines brought in to transport refugees to the UK has now ended – meaning that Anton, Natalie and her two children will have to foot the bill for flights.

The Northern Echo: Anton and Natalie, along with their two children, were meant to be travelling to the UK on Friday, March 25. Picture: PUBLIC.Anton and Natalie, along with their two children, were meant to be travelling to the UK on Friday, March 25. Picture: PUBLIC.

Currently, Anton, Natalie and their children are one kilometre away from the Ukraine border in Moldova but still hear the “horrors” of their home country taking heavy shelling from Russian forces – which keep the children up at night.

She added: “We just want to get them out of an unimaginable situation. We call them every day and they ask about the situation. We don’t want them to go through this any more and I call on the government to improve this situation.

“I know it’s not easy for government. I know it’s a huge task and I know that they are dealing with an awful lot that this world has thrown at them, but this is beyond a joke.”

These comments from Mrs Williams come the same day as data was published from April 6 – showing the number of visas issued under the Homes for Ukraine Sponsorship Scheme per local authority.

The Northern Echo: A UK visa document. Picture: PA MEDIA.A UK visa document. Picture: PA MEDIA.

The data has been published by the Home Office and the Department for Levelling Up, Housing & Communities.

In Richmondshire, which Bedale falls into, under five visas have been issued under the Homes for Ukraine scheme; “a damning insight” – according to Mrs Williams.

Nearby, Darlington have processed 12 visas through the scheme, while Durham has issued 35.

The Northern Echo: Rishi Sunak, MP for Richmond. Picture: PA MEDIA.Rishi Sunak, MP for Richmond. Picture: PA MEDIA.

Elsewhere, Buckinghamshire tops the data, having processed 151 visas, while Barnet (132), Edinburgh (116) and Camden (107) are other places where visa approval under the Homes for Ukraine scheme are high.  

*The data is provisional and is likely to include some duplicate records, so may not be an exact record of the number of individuals who have been issued visas.

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