Little Alika Zubets’ extended family is based in the UK, but her parents remain in war-torn Ukraine, caring for disabled relatives while the tot travels with her grandmother to safety
Credit: Stoke Sentinel/BPM Media)
A four-year-old girl who fled war-torn Ukraine despite having her grandmother send faces back despite having a sponsor in the UK.
Little Alika Zubets’ extended family has already fled to safety in Newcastle, but the young woman is still awaiting the issuance of her visa with her paternal grandmother, Tanya, in Poland.
Alika’s parents, Dima and Arena, gave their written consent that their daughter would leave with Tanya on March 24, and the couple made their way to Poland, where they have been staying ever since.
Tanya was granted a 90-day visa, but it expires on June 25, while little Alika’s application was met with numerous delays. Stoke on Trent Live reports.
Stoke Sentinel/BPM media)
Stoke Sentinel/BPM media)
The couple’s UK sponsor is Maggie Babb, a pediatric anesthesiologist at Royal Stoke University Hospital.
She has been working to get Alika a visa so that she and Tanya can come and stay with her at her Audley home.
However, as Tanya only has temporary notarized legal guardianship of Alika, it now appears that the four-year-old will not be able to obtain a UK visa and will have to return to Ukraine.
Government guidance on the Homes for Ukraine sponsorship program states: “Unaccompanied children and orphans are not eligible to apply under the program.
“Under 18s applying to the program must apply with or join their parents or legal guardian in the UK.”
dr Babb, who has communicated with Tanya in Poland via Google Translate, has been in regular contact with her MP Aaron Bell, as well as the campaign group Vigil4Visas, who are crowdfunding to file a lawsuit against the Home Office over delays in processing visa applications for a series by Ukrainian refugees.
The 53-year-old even asked a friend to visit the Sheffield Visa Application Center on her behalf to try and expedite the process after submitting various requested documents to no avail.
She said: “It now appears that they will not be able to process Alika’s visa because Tanya’s guardianship is temporary and not permanent – but obviously the family is hoping she can be reunited with her parents at some point.
“And now it looks like Alika will have to return to Kharkiv so Tanya can come to the UK and validate her visa.
“I’m looking at the picture of this little girl I’ve never met and I don’t know how people who want to do the right thing can let that happen.
“I’ve probably spent 100 hours or more emailing and applying and I’m ashamed to be British right now.
“I don’t think the government thought so many people would stand up and I think it was designed to make it harder for people fleeing a war.
“The government has no sympathy and it is beyond disgusting.
“I see a lot of troubling things at work, but that feels like something we should be able to do something about.
“I just wanted to help and I don’t know where to go from here, but I won’t give up unless they want to give up.”
Alika’s parents have had to stay in Kharkiv – just 40km from the Russian border – as father Dima is unable to leave the country and mother Arena is the only caregiver for her own disabled mother.
But Tanya’s cousin Oksana lives in Newcastle with her husband Karl Stubbs, and Oksana’s parents – with whom Tanya lived as a teenager – also now live in the city as part of the Ukrainian family program.
Karl, who is the chairman of the new Newcastle branch of the Association of Ukrainians in Britain, said: “We have provided all the evidence and documentation requested but we have heard one apology after another and have had to chase after each step.
“We are now being told that her application cannot be processed until there is a policy change because her grandmother has only temporary guardianship, which is common practice in Ukraine when minors are given permission to leave the country with a relative to leave.
“Surely we all want this war to end soon and for Ukrainians to be able to return, so why on earth would a permanent guardianship arrangement be appropriate?
“It now means that our government has sentenced an innocent four-year-old child to return to the front lines in a war zone. How can that be justified?
“Alika’s extended family is here and we can help take care of them. I’m calling and writing to everyone but I feel like we’re running out of options.”
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Newcastle MP Aaron Bell said he hoped the situation would be resolved “very soon”.
He said: “My staff and I have endorsed several constituents, including Dr. Babb who sponsor applications for those fleeing the war in Ukraine.
“The visa regime had to be put in place quickly and I am glad that in most cases Ukrainians who wanted to come to the UK have now been granted their visas.
“Unfortunately, there are some situations that are diplomatically complex, particularly when it comes to unaccompanied minors. This has resulted in a decision on some visas not yet being made.
“I spoke to the Minister responsible today about the matter and I hope that there will be a solution very soon.”
https://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/four-year-old-girl-faces-27227963 A four-year-old girl is sent back to war-torn Ukraine amid a visa row with Gran