31 March 2022
Harriett Baldwin makes suggestions to speed up Ukrainian refugee visa applications

Harriett Baldwin makes suggestions, following meetings with Polish MPs, that we should make use of twinning networks between British and Polish communities and that the visa form should be available in Ukrainian.

Harriett Baldwin (West Worcestershire) (Con)

Last week, at the Inter-Parliamentary Union Assembly, the UK delegation was able to meet our Polish parliamentary counterparts to thank them for everything their country has been doing to welcome such an enormous influx of refugees from Ukraine, and to ask them what more the UK could do to make the process work better for those who want to come here. They made two constructive suggestions, which I will feed in. The first is that they are using the twinning network between communities across Europe; I urge the Home Office and the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities to look at that network and establish links such as those with Malvern, where 200 families want to welcome refugees but do not necessarily know where they can locate them. Secondly, they wanted to see the application form written in Ukrainian. I wonder whether that is something that could easily be done.

Kevin Foster (The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department)

I thank my hon. Friend for her positive suggestions. The Under-Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, my hon. Friend the Member for Walsall North (Eddie Hughes), is here on the Front Bench and can look at using the twinning network—particularly, ideally, where there may be some language ability in either Polish or Ukrainian. That would be useful in helping people to settle, certainly in their first few days. In terms of engagement with Poland, I was with the Polish ambassador this week, talking to them directly and hearing what their priorities are. Their key focus is that we need to support the vast majority of people who will look to remain in the region, rather than just seeing resettlement as the priority, but it was useful to hear their thoughts on what more we could do to support them.

On moving the application form into Ukrainian, we are looking to provide guidance on how to fill it in in Ukrainian and Russian, since some Ukrainians speak Russian as their first language. To translate the whole form would require a significant amount of technical work; moreover, the vast majority of our decision makers operate in English and it would be difficult to find large numbers of Ukrainian speakers who we could deploy into UKVI’s operation. Certainly, our goal is to make it relatively simple, so that people can fill in the basic information that they need to for the safeguarding check. Any documents they submit do not need to be translated. Birth certificates and any other proofs or documents we might ask for can be submitted in Ukrainian, given that the decision makers are familiar with the documents themselves. Certainly, we are looking at how we can advance the digital capability and the guidance so that people know what they are doing step by step as they go through the form.