UK News: Ukrainian mother and children, 14 and 9, prevented from flying to UK

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A Ukrainian mother and her two children trying to flee the war were prevented from flying to the UK after a Home Office official questioned the spelling of one of their names, it was claimed today.

Viktoria Sochka, 38, her daughter Anastasiia, 14, and niece Alisa, nine, have been waiting for visas since being offered spare rooms with a couple in Hartlepool, County Durham.

Ms Sochka is taking care of Alisa while her parents serve in the Ukrainian Armed Forces.

Nick Anderson, 59, says he feels 'embarrassed to be British' over the delay, as he and his partner Karen Jones, 54, first applied for Ms Sochka and the two girls to be allowed to stay with them on March 20.

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Viktoria Sochka, 38, her daughter Anastasiia, 14, and niece Alisa, nine, have been waiting for visas since being offered spare rooms with a couple in Hartlepool, County Durham © Provided by Daily Mail Viktoria Sochka, 38, her daughter Anastasiia, 14, and niece Alisa, nine, have been waiting for visas since being offered spare rooms with a couple in Hartlepool, County Durham

They were told they would hear about whether their visas were being granted on Monday this week following frustrating delays and enlisting the help of Hartlepool MP Jill Mortimer.

Ms Sochka booked tickets for a flight on Wednesday - from Warsaw to Doncaster Sheffield airport - so they could join Mr Anderson and Ms Jones at their six-bedroom detached home.

But the Home Office failed to approve their application, leaving them stranded in Warsaw and unable to get the flight after a 26-hour train journey from their home in war torn Dnipro.

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Mr Anderson said he was told by a member of Ms Mortimer's staff that the delay was due to a Home Office official questioning the spelling of Anastasiia's name.

Ms Sochka is currently looking after her niece as Alisa's mother Kateryna (pictured), 35, and her father Oleksii, 41, are also serving in the Ukrainian armed forces © Provided by Daily Mail Ms Sochka is currently looking after her niece as Alisa's mother Kateryna (pictured), 35, and her father Oleksii, 41, are also serving in the Ukrainian armed forces

He said today: 'Some civil servant said it was not the typical way of spelling the name in Ukraine and I was told to send a copy of her passport.

'It made me absolutely furious because the Home Office already had a copy of her passport and they could see for themselves that it was spelt that way.

'I replied to the MP's office, saying that the civil servant asking the question was a moron.

'I pointed out that they all came from the Russian-speaking Donbas region in any case so spellings might well be different from the Ukrainian norm.

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'Viktoria keeps sending me messages asking if they have got visas yet, but I am still waiting for it to be sorted out. It is so disappointing to say that we are still waiting.

Mr Anderson said he was told by a member of Ms Mortimer's staff that the delay was due to a Home Office official questioning the spelling of Anastasiia's name © Provided by Daily Mail Mr Anderson said he was told by a member of Ms Mortimer's staff that the delay was due to a Home Office official questioning the spelling of Anastasiia's name

'I feel embarrassed to be British because of all this, especially when other countries are just waving through refugees. How can we be treating people like this?

'It shows how incompetent the Home Office is. The whole thing is a flipping farce.

'I know Priti Patel is concerned that there may be some Russians spies trying to come to the UK.

'Do they think this 14-year-old girl wants to come and spy on our health and school system? It makes me so angry.'

Mr Anderson, a semi-retired financial adviser, and care worker Ms Jones, 54, decided to offer to help to a refugee family as they live alone in their home.

Ms Sochka (pictured with her daughter and niece) told Mr Anderson that her husband Andrii, 43, was fighting in the Ukrainian Army and had returned to the frontline  © Provided by Daily Mail Ms Sochka (pictured with her daughter and niece) told Mr Anderson that her husband Andrii, 43, was fighting in the Ukrainian Army and had returned to the frontline

The couple - who have eight grown up children between them - made enquiries online, saying that they had three spare rooms available and were put in touch with railway worker Ms Sochka, who was looking for a place in the UK with her daughter Anastasiia and her niece Alisa Miroshyna.

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Ms Sochka told Mr Anderson that her husband Andrii, 43, was fighting in the Ukrainian Army and had returned to the frontline after being injured in February.

She is currently looking after her niece as Alisa's mother Kateryna, 35, and her father Oleksii, 41, are also serving in the Ukrainian armed forces.

Mr Anderson said: 'We decided we had the space to help out a family after being horrified by what is happening in Ukraine.

'After being put in touch with Viktoria, I filled out all their visa applications and uploaded copies of their passports to the Home Office on March 20.

'Karen and I quickly got all the necessary DBS checks and had our house checked by the local council to make sure everything was suitable.

'Viktoria cannot speak any English, but Anastasiia can speak a bit, so we have been communicating through her on Messenger.

Ms Sochka booked tickets for a flight on Wednesday - from Warsaw to Doncaster Sheffield airport - so they could join Mr Anderson and Ms Jones at their six-bedroom detached home © Provided by Daily Mail Ms Sochka booked tickets for a flight on Wednesday - from Warsaw to Doncaster Sheffield airport - so they could join Mr Anderson and Ms Jones at their six-bedroom detached home The couple - who have eight grown up children between them - made enquiries online, saying that they had three spare rooms available © Provided by Daily Mail The couple - who have eight grown up children between them - made enquiries online, saying that they had three spare rooms available

'Nothing was happening so I contacted my MP Jill Mortimer's office to ask for help. I was told her secretary spent three hours on the phone to the Home Office trying to sort everything out.

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'We were told last Friday that a decision would definitely be made on Monday. As a result of that, Viktoria and the girls booked plane tickets and travelled to Warsaw ready to fly here on Wednesday.

'But visas failed to arrive so they had to miss their flights, meaning that they lost the money they spent on tickets.

'I spent ages on my phone and computer trying to sort everything out on Tuesday, and then we get this message on Wednesday querying Anastasiia's name.

'The whole thing beggars belief.'

Mr Anderson said that Ms Sochka and the two girls had been living in fear in her flat on the ninth floor of an apartment block in Dnipro before fleeing to Warsaw.

He added: 'It was terrifying for them. They often had to shelter in the corridor when they could hear bombardments as there was no time to reach a bomb shelter.

'Their lives were at risk constantly while they waited to hear whether they were going to get visas.

'Now they have been put up in Warsaw by a Russian-speaking volunteer while they continue to wait for the Home Office to approve their visas.

'It is just so frustrating when they have a place of safety here. The awful thing is that they were bombed out of their original home by the Russians in 2015 so they are refugees twice over.'

A Government spokesperson said: 'We continue to process visas for the Homes for Ukraine scheme as quickly as possible, but accept progress has not been quick enough.

'The Home Office has made changes to visa processing – the application form has been streamlined, Ukrainian passport holders can now apply online and do their biometrics checks once in the UK, and greater resource has gone into the system.

'A UK Visas and Immigration helpline can provide information on eligibility and applications, and in cases of concern can escalate to teams who can look at the full case history and establish any issues.

'Applications are normally processed in date order from when applicant documents are uploaded.

'The Home Office is aware some applicants have been waiting nearly three weeks for their applications to be progressed or an outcome to be communicated.

'We acknowledge that this is unacceptable and we are working to resolve this and continue to speed up the processing of applications.'

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