ALMOST 100 Ukrainian refugees who were accepted to stay with hosts across south Essex have still not reached the UK, new figures show.
The Ukraine Sponsorship Scheme, also known as Homes for Ukraine, allows citizens to volunteer to house refugees fleeing the war in Ukraine.
Sponsors offer accommodation for at least six months, with those receiving sponsorship allowed to live, work and study in the UK for up to three years.
Home Office data shows 96 visas have been granted to stay with hosts in Basildon, from 118 applications – but as of Monday, just 43 of these refugees had arrived in the UK.
In Southend, 116 visas have been granted, from 143 applications, but just 74 of these refugees have arrived in the UK.
The Refugee Council said it had received reports of delays at every stage of the application process, and of necessary documents not reaching refugees quick enough for them to travel.
Head of advocacy at the charity, Andy Hewett, called the scheme “unfit for purpose”.
He said: “Responding to a serious humanitarian crisis by offering complex visa routes, putting paperwork and bureaucracy before people was always going to have tragic consequences.”
Some families are also not having their applications processed together, creating difficulties when not all visas are granted at the same time.
Others have flagged the potential for safeguarding issues from a lack of thorough checks on prospective sponsors, and there have been national reports of refugees becoming homeless after being turfed out by their hosts.
The Home Office said some refugees are choosing to stay put or travel elsewhere, which may explain some of the gap between arrivals and the number of visas granted.
A spokesperson called it “one of the fastest and biggest visa schemes in UK history” adding they are now “processing visas as fast as quickly as they come in” as a result of changes to the application system.