Vigils for Visas - Where are the missing Homes for Ukraine visas?

by Vigil for Visas

Vigils for Visas - Where are the missing Homes for Ukraine visas?

by Vigil for Visas
Vigil for Visas
Case Owner
We are a group of sponsors in the Homes for Ukraine Scheme. We helped Ukrainian citizens to apply under the programme. Our Ukrainian sponsees all made their applications before the end of March.
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Vigil for Visas
Case Owner
We are a group of sponsors in the Homes for Ukraine Scheme. We helped Ukrainian citizens to apply under the programme. Our Ukrainian sponsees all made their applications before the end of March.
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Latest: July 23, 2022

Judicial review update

Hi All

Sorry for the radio silence, we have been plugging away in the background!

Although the initial application for JR was refused 

An application for permission to renew the Judicial Review has…

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We are crowdfunding to bring an action against the Home Office for inordinate and unreasonable delays in processing the visa applications for a number of Ukrainian refugees. The applications were made in March 2022, and many are not completed.

Many of these Ukrainians are vulnerable and in difficult positions. They left their homes in Ukraine and many have gone to neighbouring countries. They are not wealthy people and many have completely run out of money or resources.  Applicants often are only the women and children in a family as the men are fighting in Ukraine. There are hundreds of mothers with young children, without resources, at risk of street homelessness, terrified about the fate of their fathers, brothers and sons, and stuck in a Home Office limbo

Who We Are

We are a group of sponsors in the Homes for Ukraine Scheme.  We helped Ukrainian citizens to apply under the programme.  Our Ukrainian sponsees all made their applications before the end of March, not long after the programme opened and we have all had applications that have taken 5 or 6 weeks or are still outstanding as we write today.

We were in different groups raising concerns about the length of time the process was taking, and a little over a week ago we joined forces to try to resolve the issue once and for all.

We have collated data on the number of outstanding applications and tried to engage with the Home Office but this has fallen on deaf ears, so now we feel we are left with no choice.

Katherine, Louise, John, Kitty

Home Office Inaction

None of the Ukrainian refugees we have sponsored have arrived in the UK.  In some cases all of a particular set of applications remain undecided.  In other cases, even more bafflingly, some family members have had their visas granted and others have not.  Clearly, no family in which a mother and, say, two children have been granted visas are going to come to the UK and leave a small child still awaiting theirs  in Ukraine, Poland or elsewhere.

We have discussed this matter extensively with other sponsors in the same position as us.  We became aware that some sponsors have successfully issued challenges -  called a pre-action protocol for judicial review - about the delay in their particular family’s cases.  A number of these sponsors were able to unjam the Home Office system in a matter of hours and get their visas issued.  Some of these Ukrainians have now arrived in the UK and are safe in their sponsor’s homes.  Others are arriving shortly.

We are aware from our own actions and those of others that everything possible has been tried.  We have talked to the media who have reported extensively on the frustrations and delays.  Some of us have contacted our own MPs.  Many MPs have been helpful in chasing the Home Office to find out what has been happening with applications.  The Home Office responses  to MPs have sometimes been misleading - they have said a decision has been made and it later turns out it has not been made - or they promise a decision will be made within a period of time and this does not happen; sometimes have just been stalling.

In some cases, even where initial steps have been taken and children without passports have attended at Visa Centres with their parents to register their biometrics, they have then been told there will be another significant delay in actually issuing the permission to travel.

It is impossible to get any sense directly out of the Home Office.  The ‘Helpline’, better known to us as ‘the line’ has staff who are often polite and friendly but they have no access to proper information about individual cases.  Emailing or telephoning any part of the Home Office is a fruitless exercise.

We never intended or even wanted to commence legal action.  All of us read the information about the scheme and wanted to help.  NONE of us ever anticipated this degree of confusion, frustration and inaction.

In many cases we are aware that sponsors have been trying to arrange B & B or hotel accommodation for their Applicant families.  This is expensive and difficult – obviously accommodation is in short supply and high demand in many of the countries neighbouring Ukraine.  Many sponsors simply cannot afford this huge extra cost.

Early Applications Ignored or Sidelined

What has particularly concerned us is that there are nearly a thousand applications we know of submitted in March which remain undecided in whole or in part.  The application process was particularly complicated then, it has been simplified to some degree since, and newer applications are being granted - while these older ones are sitting on someone’s digital desk and being ignored.  

We do not know why so many pre-31st March 2022 applications remain undecided.  There appear a couple of possibilities: Either the Home Office is prioritising newer applications because they are easier and faster to deal with and they can therefore boast about how many applications have been decided; or the programme is just so incoherent and disorganised that the Home Office are not dealing with the matters in any pretence of chronological order.  We do not know which of these explanations is correct and it also appears in some cases the Home Office may have lost uploaded documents.

We do know that in some of the hundreds of March cases outstanding, the Applicants have made new applications since then which have been granted quickly.  It therefore appears fairly clear that there is this cohort of probably thousands of cases from March which are simply not being processed.

What We Are Going To Do

What we intend to do, therefore, is to write a pre-action protocol for judicial review to the Home Office and challenge the significant number of cases which are outstanding for no good reason.  If necessary we shall have to apply for judicial review.

The judicial review we intend to bring if our pre-action protocol is not successful, is to challenge this policy or cohort of outstanding cases.  This case will therefore not only solve individual family’s problems but, we hope, force the Home Office to get a grip on this serious problem.  Individual challenges have been successful, but there are too many still outstanding.  And those individual challenges rely upon sponsors who have the resources and contacts to bring cases against the Home Office for their own Applicant families.  Many sponsors are not in this position.  

We have found a Barrister with long experience in public law judicial review immigration cases who has already dealt with a number of Ukrainians in similar positions.  We have also found a Solicitor with significant experience in the same area to act for us and to instruct the Barrister.

This will be a complicated action because it is challenging not only individual cases but the whole policy background, actions and inactions of the Home Office.

We are confident that we have a very strong case for judicial review on the combination of facts and law that exist here.

The process will be this:  We will have to prepare a number of witness statements and collate the data and information about the outstanding March applications. The Barrister will then write a pre-action protocol letter to the Home Office setting out the facts, the problems, the legal issues and our intention to apply for judicial review if we do not get a speedy and useful reply.  

If the pre-action protocol results in success, we will not have to take it any further.  If the Home Office does not get a grip on this urgent and potentially catastrophic situation, we will bring our action for judicial review and ask that it is considered urgently in light of the vulnerability of so many of the March Applicants.  

We are therefore crowdfunding in order to pay these necessary costs.  There are Court fees and a lot of legal work will need to be done very quickly.  The Solicitors and Barrister in question have agreed to undertake this work at generous reductions on their usual rate.

We therefore have an initial target to cover the pre-action protocol of £5,000 and a ‘stretch target’ of £15,000 in the event that we need to go for the full judicial review.

Thank you so much for reading - even if you can't donate a share would be great!

Update 4

Vigil for Visas

July 23, 2022

Judicial review update

Hi All

Sorry for the radio silence, we have been plugging away in the background!

Although the initial application for JR was refused 

An application for permission to renew the Judicial Review has been lodged at Court on the 27th June 2022.

A Renewal bundle and authorities bundle is due to be filed at court on 25th July 2022 and the court will be asked to expedite listing of the Permission Hearing.

There are still lots of stories we are hearing of unnecessarily long waits.

Thank you for your continued support.

Louise, Katherine & Kitty

Update 3

Vigil for Visas

June 10, 2022

Home office Response...

Hi All

It's been a while since we updated and we know that you are all heavily invested and interested in this so here is an update on the case so far...

The Home Office applied at the last minute for an extension of time to file its defence. It relied on the surprise bank holidays and what it called a "Civil Service Privilege Day" on 6th June for being late. We put in a written opposition to this application; the Home Office had already claimed an extra five days by counting as if they'd been sent the decision by post rather than email.

The Home Office then (finally) put in its Acknowledgement of Service and Summary Grounds of Defence on Wednesday afternoon. We were disappointed to read the defence. It did not consider the actual circumstances of all the witness evidence we had put before the court about hardship and delay. Instead, the defence said we shouldn't be allowed to bring judicial review proceedings because we don't have "standing", otherwise known as a sufficient interest in the matter, and that delay and maladministration aren't enough to challenge the Home Office. It also relied on Article 9 of the Bill of Rights 1689, which says, "Freedom of Speech. That the Freedome of Speech and Debates or Proceedings in Parlyament ought not to be impeached or questioned in any Court or Place out of Parlyament." The Home Office thinks we shouldn't be allowed to refer to anything said in Parliament. The defence also threatened us with costs applications, several times, and said Home Office staff were working "around the clock". How this fits with taking time off for bank holidays and "privilege days" wasn't actually explained.

We instructed our solicitors and counsel to prepare an urgent reply to the above defence, which was filed and served on Thursday, less than 24 hours after the defence was received.

We now await the court's decision on permission to seek judicial review.

As you can see the fundraising is more important than ever - the HO are hoping we will drop this fight based on costs. Please please give again if you can or share this crowdfunder it really is so critical, there are people waiting almost 3 months now far longer than the 3 weeks which the HO say is unacceptable.

Louise, Katherine & Kitty

Update 2

Vigil for Visas

May 12, 2022

Judicial Review filed

We have filed for Judicial Review as of 12/05/22.  

We have asked for urgent consideration from the Judge.

We will update as soon as we hear, as we know many are still waiting to hear about visa applications - in some cases it is  almost 8 weeks. 

Thank you SO much for your financial support - it makes it possible to seek justice on behalf of everyone. 

Huge thanks to Amanda Jones, Great James Street Chambers, and the team at Bhogal Partners for their incredible expertise, dedication and hard work.

Update 1

Vigil for Visas

May 7, 2022

Pre Action Protocol Issued!

The Pre Action Protocol (PAP) was issued on 6th May 2022.

A substantive response has been requested by 4pm Tuesday 10th May.

Thanks to the incredible generosity of everyone who has contributed to this Crowdfunding appeal, we have the financial confidence to pursue our aims as swiftly and vigorously as possible.

Please continue to ask everyone you know to contribute to this appeal and know we are doing our very best, with your help, to insist Ukrainian visas are processed, efficiently, coherently, with accountability and fast. Delay is deadly.

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