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Family united after mother and adopted sons wait on visa to enter UK from Ukraine

A father from Sandhurst told of his “overwhelming joy” to be re-united with his Ukranian-born wife and two step-children.

But Lee Greaves, 60, hit out at the bureaucracy surrounding visas on the Channel border, causing more than a two-week delay.

Reunited: Courtesy Lee Greaves
Reunited: Courtesy Lee Greaves

And responding to Home Office arguments that everyone needs to be vetted for security reasons, he said: “Russian spies aren’t toddlers who come over here in nappies.”

More than 20,000 people who have fled the Ukraine war are waiting for decisions from the Home Office on their applications to join family members in Britain, new figures show.

Last week, Mr Greaves told how his wife Natalia, 52, was stuck in Paris with her two nephews Mykola, eight, and Heorhii, two, waiting for refugee visas.

Today he said: “They can make the process so much easier, they could lay on extra staff to handle the straightforward and obvious cases.

“They could easily give passage to obvious cases like ours instead of going through this drawn-out process for very young people.

Ukrainian refugee crisis: Natalia and Lee Greaves
Ukrainian refugee crisis: Natalia and Lee Greaves

“What was most frustrating is it took two days to travel out of the war zone to get to the English Channel, where it then took more than two weeks to get visas.

“They have the power to let people in but instead those most in need are faced with these unnecessary hurdles.”

Attempts to obtain a British visa for the children online were repeatedly unsuccessful, but they were eventually able to book a slot for an interview with British Immigration authorities in Paris.

The family drove five hours and attended the interview, only to be told there would be a five-day delay while the application was processed.

Ukrainian refugee crisis: Natalia Greaves
Ukrainian refugee crisis: Natalia Greaves

Mr Greaves explained: "At that point I installed my wife and the children in a hotel in Paris while they wait, and I came home to look after our own twins.

"We've been relatively fortunate. I've been able to pay for my wife to stay in a hotel. Other people waiting for visas are in hostels, camping out in their cars or just on the streets.”

Mr Greaves dubbed the online visa application system “extraordinarily complicated”, impossible on a mobile phone, with even his daughter struggling to navigate the system on a computer, while they were in France.

But a breakthrough came last night when Natalia and the two little ones were given right of passage via the Eurotunnel.

“The relief, being able to speak with her on a moving train as the family were returning here - it was overwhelming.”

“I thought if the property gets bombed it doesn’t matter, as long as people aren’t inside it.”

He continued: “The Poles were absolutely brilliant, so kind to everyone on the train. It seemed like everyone turned out to help."

And the family is unaware whether his property in a village outside Kyiv is still standing.

“It’s hard to get updates from the neighbours, reception is poor, people are hiding in cold basements with no electricity.

“Also my wife is too anxious to ask,” he said, adding Russian bombs had already levelled three homes on their road.

“I thought if the property gets bombed it doesn’t matter, as long as people aren’t inside it.”

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