A gifted 17-year-old violinist dwelling on the frontline in south-east Ukraine has been left ready three months for a British visa, revealing critical flaws in authorities guarantees to assist unaccompanied kids.
Anastasiia, who lives within the Russian occupied Zaporizhzhia area, the place preventing has been intense, has confronted fixed shelling whereas ready to hitch a household in Hertfordshire.
“There are such a lot of bombs and rockets and buildings on hearth now,” she mentioned. “They’re preventing each day. I can exit however it’s also very harmful.”
The Guardian will not be publishing her surname as she might want to cross checkpoints to flee.
Anastasiia is considered one of about 1,000 unaccompanied kids who utilized to Britain underneath the Properties for Ukraine scheme and had been left in limbo after the federal government modified its coverage and mentioned kids needed to journey with dad and mom or guardians.
The problem was alleged to have been resolved final month after the federal government introduced that it might permit a protected passage to the UK for those who had already applied.
However small print within the coverage reveals that the majority is not going to be eligible because it says lone kids ought to have already got identified their hosts earlier than struggle broke out, until in “distinctive” circumstances.
A letter despatched on the finish of June knowledgeable Anastasiia that in “early July” she could be contacted a few new scheme however that her hosts would usually solely be eligible in the event that they knew her earlier than the outbreak of struggle. She has heard nothing since.
Anastasiia is considered one of a number of younger musicians helped to hitch musical British households after a push from the music commerce physique, the BPI. Whereas those that had been over 18 had been capable of come to Britain, Anastasiia was left ready.
She mentioned she had “dreamed of being in a giant orchestra” since she was younger and that the “huge destruction” of her dwelling city meant her dream could be onerous to understand until she left.
Sally Belsham, 57, from Bishops Stortford in Hertfordshire, has musical youngsters of her personal, and has been able to welcome Anastasiia since their utility on 11 April.
“Simply leaving her on this scenario is horrible,” she mentioned. “It’s actually inhuman. I perceive the necessity for safeguarding however you can not have a system that leaves individuals in limbo like this.”
Each Belsham and her husband, Giampaolo Martinelli, 54, have intensive background checks as she works with refugees and Martinelli is a cardiac anaesthetist. They’ve 17-year-old triplets and a 19-year-old son at college.
Belsham added: “There’s nonetheless no certainty that she’s going to even be accepted underneath this scheme, as a result of we didn’t know her earlier than the struggle.
“It’s a nonsense, actually. Clearly, the explanation we’re on this scenario is due to the struggle and our want to assist and her have to get out.”
Anastasiia’s dad and mom, who take care of 4 adopted kids with well being wants and can’t depart, don’t need her to go with out the visa. With out the knowledge of a bunch household, they fear about her travelling elsewhere in Europe alone.
Earlier than the struggle, Anastasiia attended music faculty and practised for 5 or 6 hours a day. Now she says she struggles to, as a result of she is commonly sheltering within the basement of their dwelling and serving to to look after her adopted siblings.
“I assumed it might be nice to practise within the basement however the children have plenty of vitality and I all the time want to assist my dad and mom,” she mentioned.
The Labour peer Alf Dubs mentioned it was “completely surprising” that youngsters had been being left on the frontline for months on finish. “When younger individuals are dwelling in a struggle zone, extra time is extra hazard,” he mentioned.
He additionally criticised the loophole within the scheme, saying it was “yet one more try” to limit the variety of unaccompanied kids coming from Ukraine. “How would anyone have identified a sponsor on this nation earlier than the battle began?”
A Division for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities spokesperson mentioned: “We’ve a accountability to maintain kids protected and we now have put in place robust safeguarding measures to guard them as soon as they arrive within the UK.
“The sponsor ought to, wherever attainable, be personally identified to the dad and mom. Nevertheless, native authorities will overview circumstances and might select to make exceptions.”