Visa delay made our refugees reject UK, says businessman

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Leading wine merchant Sam Clarke, 49, spent eight weeks trying to get visas while his wife Jules spent time and money preparing accommodation.

Visas were finally granted to the Nedoshytko family yesterday – by which time they had reached Austria where, in days, authorities found them a home and school places for their children.

Accountant Andrii, 36, his wife Oleksandra, 38 and their children Sofiia-Mariia, eight, Dominika, seven, and Ivan, three, are now staying put.

They felt Austria had done everything it could to help, while the UK “did its best to keep them out”.

Andrii said: “We are especially grateful to Sam Clarke and his family but we have decided to stay where we are. Our children needed to be safe.”

Sam, who founded Stannary Wine, is “bitterly disappointed” and says the long delay had risked putting the Nedoshytko family in danger in the Ukrainian town they fled to from Kyiv. He added: “We called the Home Office helpline, holding for almost two hours at one point. [But] it seemed designed to keep us at a distance from the process.

“I contacted my MP Nusrat Ghani several times but there was nothing she could do. She actually suggested the delay might have been because I had a speeding conviction, and so might be suspected to be an unsuitable host.

“In frustration I wrote my feelings down in a long rant and sent it to her. It didn’t do much good.”

Meanwhile, the prospective hosts had prepared their country home near Uckfield, East Sussex. It was once owned by Depeche Mode frontman Dave

Gahan.The property had a coachhouse that the pop star used as a recording studio and the couple have turned it into a two-bedroom, two-bathroom cottage.

The Home Office, which processes visa applications, referred the Daily Express to the Department for Levelling Up which manages the Homes for Ukraine scheme. Refugees Minister Lord Harrington said: “We have been working hard to streamline the process.”

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