Four-year-old Ukrainian boy and mother refused UK entry to join family in Manchester

  • Refugee Ruslana Zagainova studied at Manchester Metropolitan University
  • 38% of visa applications have been accepted under the Ukraine Family Scheme
  • Communities come together to help other refugees enter the UK

A Man Met alumna and her four-year-old son who fled the war in Ukraine are desperately trying to make their way to Stockport to find safety with relatives.

They are stuck in Naples, Italy, after having been refused entry to the UK after leaving Ukraine in Feburary.

Ruslana Zagainova and her son, Platon, want to come and live with her aunt in Stockport but have hit a bureaucratic brickwall because Platon’s passport has recently expired.

Ruslana’s Auntie, Inessa Gwynne, told NQ: “I contacted the Ukrainian embassy to find out are they issuing any new passports, or is there any way to issue a passport for Platon?

“They said in times of war they are not. So, we are stuck.”

Ruslana and son have fled Ukraine
Ruslana Zagainova wants to come and stay with her aunt in Stockport

Last month the government launched the Ukraine family scheme, which allows Ukrainians to join family members in the UK.

Unlike some countries, the UK government is asking refugees to apply for visas.

Inessa said the application process was making it difficult to get refugees the help they needed.

“The more we find out about complexities, the more we despair,” she said.

Statistics from The Home Office show that as of 29 March 2022, the total Ukraine Scheme applications received totalled 59,500.

From this 22,800 Family Scheme visas have been issued.

Numerous supporting documents are being asked for to complete the visa applications.

Inessa said: “When you flee a war zone do you think about all supporting documents?

“The form says ‘have you lived in the country before 31 December 2021?’ How can you prove that? Old household bills?

“I mean, do you flee taking bank statements. How?”

You just grab a passport if you are lucky and run.

Inessa selfie in the half term holidays as the war began
Inessa Gwynne who is fighting to get her niece to come and live with her 

Ruslana came to the UK and studied art at Manchester Metropolitan University in 2009.

Inessa said: “As an international student it cost an arm and a leg, but what is more valuable than education?

“It’s amazing to see what good education does for knowledge and confidence.

“She absolutely loved it.”

As well as trying to help her niece to get to the UK, Inessa has been helping others caught up in the conflict.

Her local community have come together to fill in the Ukraine Sponsorship Scheme visa forms in the hopes to house refugees.

Inessa said: “Neighbours have spent hours filling in the forms.

“One person heard about it, passed it on and another two have signed up. One saying they have space for a family and disabled child.

“People are so insanely kind and yet we still can’t get Ukrainians over. Its so sad.”

The Home Office has said: “We are moving as quickly as possible to ensure that those fleeing horrific persecution in Ukraine can find safety in the UK.”

Ruslana and Platon are now waiting in Italy until they know if they can join their family in Greater Manchester.

Ruslana’s husband has stayed in the Ukraine to help collect humanitarian aid and safely transport people and animals to the boarders.

Inessa added: “It’s all so upsetting. We need to help more Ukranians.”