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British expat stuck in Ukraine with family fears he has been 'totally abandoned' by UK

Thomas Jones, 52, moved to Lviv in western Ukraine in June 2015, where he runs a language services company. The Londoner has been married since 2016 to his Ukrainian wife, Iryna and has an 18-year-old step-son called Stanislav, who is currently studying IT at Wroclaw’s Business University in Poland. Mr Jones said that British expats with Ukrainian families have been told the Government will help them obtain visas for their loved ones.

However, complicated bureaucratic procedures are making it very difficult for Iryna, 47, to obtain a British visa and are endangering the safety of his family.

Mr Jones told “The help has been offered but it’s not been given.

“I feel totally abandoned and a bit miffed that not much assistance is going on. I call the Embassy and the line doesn’t work or they don’t answer.”

The British Embassy and Consular are being evacuated to Lviv, where the 52-year-old Londoner lives.

This should make it easy in theory for Iryna, a financial director at a local hotel, to get a visa.

However, the reality turns out to be very different, as applicants are forced to navigate a bureaucratic nightmare that also potentially puts their lives at risk.

The Consular has farmed out the visa application process to an independent agency located in Kyiv, which has no current plans to relocate.

Applicants have to go first online and fill out a form, then click on a link that takes them to the website of the visa agency.

Thereupon they choose a time and a date to attend an interview at the agency’s offices in Kyiv, in order to complete their application and receive their visa – a process that can still take two weeks or more.

With Russia poised to invade and the capital city likely to be targeted by invading forces any day now, travelling to Kyiv becomes both dangerous and potentially life threatening.

Mr Jones clearly does not want to expose his wife to unnecessary risks and believes UK officials are not taking expats’ needs into account.

“I would like an Embassy that has moved from Kiev to think about what they are asking us to do,” he said

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“Why did they move from Kiev? Because it is dangerous. Yet they are asking us to go down there in the train and then spend a few hours at a visa centre in danger when they are warning us, the press and Boris Johnson, that it (the invasion) could happen any day now. It’s ludicrous.”

He added: “I don’t want to be caught with my pants down in Kiev at some visa centre when the bombs start flying or some Russian separatist cell is blowing things up. It’s just not my idea of being clever.”

The language teacher has repeatedly tried to contact help lines provided by the UK authorities, but says they are almost next to useless in terms of offering real help.

“The numbers you are given, these help lines, it’s some call centre in England,” he explained.

“The poor people at the other end must be getting so much flak from everyone because they don’t know what they are doing.

“They don’t know how to advise. It’s unbelievable – they give you a number, you get to another line, you press one, go to two and then they give you a load of messages and then you get cut off.”

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Mr Jones said many British expats with Ukrainian families are considering evacuating to EU countries should the invasion occur, given the difficulties in getting British visas.

Ukrainians along with British citizens can spend up to 90 days in Schengen countries without a visa. However, he questions why he should be forced to do that in order to protect himself and his family.

“I want to go to England if needs be – that’s my right you know – I was born British and I have a British passport and I expect the help it says on the front of the passport – basically accept the bearer.

“I can stay with people. I am not asking for a housing association or money. I just want to get my family to safety. I have friends and family in England, I will sort myself out. It would be nice if we had that to fall back on – it is not something you ask for every day.”

Mr Jones urged the Prime Minister to do more to help Brits and their Ukrainian families to evacuate back to the UK.

“You have a number of British citizens, British subjects in the country and you have offered them help. That help isn’t being given 100% and I am sure if he (Boris Johnson) was stuck in the country, I am sure he would be the first out. We are not asking for much.”



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