Ukrainian girl, 11, is forced to return home after UK officials repeatedly rejected her visa bid


Ukrainian girl, 11, is forced to return to her war-torn homeland after Home Office officials repeatedly rejected her visa bid to live with her aunt in Britain

  • Alisa Miroshyna, 11, aunt Viktoria and cousin Anastasiia fled Ukraine in March
  • The trio spent three months waiting in Poland trying to get to UK to live with host
  • The girl has had to return to her home in Dnipro after she was not given a visa

A Ukrainian girl has been forced to return to her war-torn home city after her hopes of a starting a new life with her aunt and cousin in the UK were dashed.

Alisa Miroshyna, 11, spent nearly three months in Poland waiting for a visa after her parents who both serve in the Ukrainian Army got legal papers, allowing her aunt to act for her.

But her mother Kateryna, 35, has now given up hope of her getting a UK visa and has taken her back to their home in Dnipro in an area of eastern Ukraine threatened by Russian forces.

The failure to grant her a visa has been slammed as ‘sickening and criminal’ by the couple who had invited her to stay at their home in Hartlepool, County Durham.

Viktoria Sochka, 38, her daughter Anastasiia (left), 14, and niece Alisa, 11, spent months in Poland waiting for visas to the UK but were repeatedly rejected

Viktoria Sochka, 38, her daughter Anastasiia (left), 14, and niece Alisa, 11, spent months in Poland waiting for visas to the UK but were repeatedly rejected

Ms Sochka had previously booked tickets for a flight - from Warsaw to Doncaster Sheffield airport - so they could join hosts Mr Anderson and Ms Jones at their six-bedroom detached home before visa issues arose

Ms Sochka had previously booked tickets for a flight – from Warsaw to Doncaster Sheffield airport – so they could join hosts Mr Anderson and Ms Jones at their six-bedroom detached home before visa issues arose

Alisa's mother Kateryna, 35,  who is serving in the Ukraine armed forces with father Oleksii, 41, has decided to bring her back home after giving up hope of her getting a visa

Alisa’s mother Kateryna, 35,  who is serving in the Ukraine armed forces with father Oleksii, 41, has decided to bring her back home after giving up hope of her getting a visa

UK civil servants repeatedly refused to accept that Viktoria was Alisa's legal guardian despite a Lasting Power of Attorney document proving it (pictured)

UK civil servants repeatedly refused to accept that Viktoria was Alisa’s legal guardian despite a Lasting Power of Attorney document proving it (pictured)

Nick Anderson, 60, and his partner Karen Jones, 54, had offered spare rooms to Alisa, her aunt Viktoria Sochka, 39, and cousin Anasatasiia, 14, under the Homes for Ukraine Scheme.

He claimed that he and staff working for Hartlepool MP Jill Mortimer had wasted ‘many hundreds of hours’ trying in vain to get visas for the three of them.

But UK civil servants repeatedly refused to accept that Viktoria was her legal guardian, despite official papers showing that her aunt had Power of Attorney over her.

Nick, a semi-retired financial adviser, said: ‘It is outrageous that the British Government has sent this 11-year-old girl back to a war zone where her life could potentially be at risk.

‘Anyone who watches the news and sees what the Russians are doing to women and children in the Ukraine should be disgusted that a family is being treated in such a shocking manner. It is truly a case of Schindler’s List in reverse!

‘It is ironic to think that refugees from Ukraine who are accepted in to the UK are allowed to bring dogs and pets with them

‘It is ridiculous she would have been allowed in if she was a dog, but she cannot come here as an 11-year-old accompanied by her aunt.’

Nick Anderson agreed to host the trio at his home in Hartlepool, County Durham. But officials continued to request for further proof that Viktoria is really the aunt of Alisa - which left them unable to travel to the UK

Nick Anderson agreed to host the trio at his home in Hartlepool, County Durham. But officials continued to request for further proof that Viktoria is really the aunt of Alisa – which left them unable to travel to the UK

Mr Anderson and partner Ms Jones first applied on March 20 for Viktoria and the two girls to be allowed to stay with them

Mr Anderson and partner Ms Jones first applied on March 20 for Viktoria and the two girls to be allowed to stay with them

The couple - who have eight grown up children between them - made enquiries online, saying that they had three spare rooms available

The couple – who have eight grown up children between them – made enquiries online, saying that they had three spare rooms available

Nick and care worker Karen who have eight grown up children between them had decided to help a refugee family as they live alone in their six bedroom detached house.

The couple made inquiries online, saying that they had three spare rooms available, and were put in touch with railway worker Viktoria who was looking for a place in the UK with her daughter and niece.

Nick was told that Viktoria’s husband Andrii, 43, was fighting in the Ukrainian Army and back on the frontline after being injured in February.

Viktoria also said she was having to look after her niece so her sister and brother-in-law and Oleksii, 41, could also serve in the country’s armed forces.

Nick said he spent several hours applying for the visas online on March 20, and enlisted the help of his MP Jill Mortimer after becoming frustrated with the delays.

The intervention of her staff led to him being assured that a decision on whether to grant visas would be made by April 4.

As a result, Viktoria and the two girls left their home in Dnipro and made a 26 hour train journey to Warsaw, so they could fly to the UK on April 6.

But at the last minute, UK civil servants questioned the spelling of Anastasiia’s name and asked to see her passport to prove it, despite already having a copy of it.

They claimed that it was not the usual way the name was spelt in Ukraine, even though they had been told that the teenager originally came from the Donbas region where spellings are different.

The issue meant that visas were not granted and the three of them were unable to board their flight to Doncaster Sheffield airport.

Kateryna decided that her daughter Alisa was not going to get a visa, and brought her back to Dnipro so that Viktoria and Anastasiia would have a better chance of reaching the UK

Kateryna decided that her daughter Alisa was not going to get a visa, and brought her back to Dnipro so that Viktoria and Anastasiia would have a better chance of reaching the UK

They only had visas to stay in Poland for 90 days and were worried that they would run out of time

They only had visas to stay in Poland for 90 days and were worried that they would run out of time 

They ended up sharing a single room at a hostel in Warsaw with another Ukrainian mother and her daughter while they waited in vain for visas to be sorted out.

In another twist, Nick revealed that civil servants then asked for further proof that Viktoria really was the aunt of Alisa and entitled to travel with her to the UK.

Nick said officials raised the query, despite already having a copy of the Lasting Power of Attorney granted by authorities in Ukraine to give Viktoria the right to care for her niece.

Ms Mortimer raised Alisa’s plight in Parliament on Monday in a question to Priti Patel, urging the Home Secretary to try and find a solution to let her into the UK.

But Alisa’s mother Kateryna decided she could wait no longer and travelled by Warsaw on train on Tuesday to be reunited with her and take her back to Dnipro.

Nick said: ‘Things came to a head because they had been dragging on for so long. They only have visas to stay in Poland for 90 days and they were worried that they would run out of time.

‘Kateryna decided that Alisa was never going to get a visa, and so she decided to take her back to Dnipro.

‘She hopes it will mean that Viktoria and Anastasiia will have a better chance of reaching the UK, without the issue over Alisa’s visa holding them up.

‘But even that is not as simple as it sounds because Alisa’s application has to be disassociated from their application and we are waiting for that to happen.

‘Viktoria says she is broken by the whole experience. They are a very close family and it is awful for her that she will not be able to help her sister by bringing Alisa over here.

‘They have all been sharing this single room in a hostel for nearly three months, and then they had to say goodbye to Alisa.’

Nick said he received an official notification from the UK Government on Thursday afternoon, saying that Alisa’s visa application had been refused.

Alisa (left) pictured with her aunt Viktoria (centre left), mother Kataryna (centre right) and cousin Anastasiia (right)

Alisa (left) pictured with her aunt Viktoria (centre left), mother Kataryna (centre right) and cousin Anastasiia (right)

The email gave the reason for the refusal as being the fact that she was aged under 18 and ‘not accompanied by your parent/legal guardian’.

It invited her to apply under the new scheme, due to start in July, which will allow unaccompanied children from Ukraine to enter the UK.

Nick said he then received another email 40 minutes later saying that Alisa’s application was still being looked at after all.

He added: ‘The whole process is just shambolic. It is ridiculous that things have dragged on for so long. It just stinks

‘Jill Mortimer’s secretary Alison Shepherd has literally spent hundreds of hours trying to sort this out.

‘She has been on the phone day after day, often waiting for three hours at a time, but the only response she ever got was, “We have everything we need and we’re looking into it”.

‘Jill Mortimer has even had a member of her staff go along to the office in London which has been processing visa applications, but that did not achieve anything.

‘It was great that she asked a question in Parliament to try and help Alisa, but the dismissive reaction she got from Ms Patel says everything about her and her department.’

Nick said that social workers had approved his home as being suitable for a refugee family, but he was advised to get a Lasting Power of Attorney to prove Viktoria was acting as a guardian for her niece.

He passed on the advice to Viktoria, and she arranged the official document from authorities in Ukraine which he then uploaded as part of their application.

Nick added: ‘Our civil servants appear to be deliberately obstructing refugees when civilians are being killed by bombing every day. It really is sickening.’

He earlier told MailOnline: ‘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.

He added: ‘We decided we had the space to help out a family after being horrified by what is happening in Ukraine.

‘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.’

Nick said that Viktoria 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.

‘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 spokesperson for the Department of Levelling Up which is handling visa applications for the Home Office was unable to comment on Alisa’s case.

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