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Disabled refugee waits for home office to approve son’s visa

Svitlana Trifonova with her two sons
Svitlana Trifonova with her two sons Image credit: dailymail.co.uk

A wheelchair user has criticised the home office for blocking a teenage Ukrainian refugee from staying at her Hampshire home with his former Paralympian mother.

Jo Wright lives in a five bedroom house which has been described as one of the smartest wheelchair-accessible homes in the south of England.

The 60-year-old told a Ukrainian disability charity she had space to house any refuges who had accessible requirements.

She was put in touch with former Paralympian Svitlana Trifonova, who now works as a TV presenter and commentator on para sports in Ukraine, and her 18-year-old Mykta who acts as her carer.

The plan was for Svitlana’s second son Tymofii Gontovyi, 14, to remain in Ukraine living with his father Pavlo on the outskirts on Kyiv.

But as the conflict escalated she wanted both sons to travel with her to the UK.

Svitlana submitted a second application on behalf of her second son on March 27, but despite her visa being approved with Mykta’s on April 2 and 5 the family are still waiting for Tymoffii’s to be processed.

Mrs Wight, a retired BT sales director, has been told the teenager’s ‘checks are ongoing’, as a result Svitlana and her sons are still in a hotel in Poland, Slovakia, after they fled Kyiv.

Wright told Mail Online: ‘The delay is just incomprehensible.

‘How many checks does the Home Office need to carry out on a 14-year-old boy? They might be able to go over his school records and find his trigonometry results, but what else do they need to find out?

‘It is just nonsense and I have no way of actually finding out what the problem is.

‘The fact that they have left their home, taking the word of a stranger who wants to put them up in another country, just shows how desperate they are.

‘I will do whatever it takes to get them out of there and get them here. They are completely traumatised.

‘What is inexcusable is that the Home Office is not really acknowledging that there is a serious problem, and are claiming that things are being sorted out.

‘There seems to be an issue with people who applied early on for visas. There are family groups where everyone is getting a visa apart from either a parent or a younger child.

‘There are thousands of people on Facebook groups who are pulling their hair out waiting to come over and faced with ridiculous delays

‘Cynics are saying that this is really the Government trying to control the number of people entering the UK.

‘It is just appalling and the Home Office needs to admit it, and tell people whether they have to reapply.

‘I am just so embarrassed about the situation. It is insensitive and it reflects terribly badly on the competence of the British Government and the goodwill of the British people.

‘People desperately want to reach out and help Ukrainians who we can see are in desperate need, but there are obstacles in the way.’

Wright became disabled after suffering a rare infection in her spinal column in 2011 and spent seven months in hospital.

After being discharged she had to use a wheelchair to navigate around her Edwardian turreted home in Hampshire.

As things became more difficult Jo and her husband David, 62, sold the house keeping part of the garden where they built a new home more accessible to her needs with a lift, gym and swimming pool which was featured on the cover of Grand Designs magazine last December.

Wright said: ‘Our house is beautiful and we are immensely proud of it. Now we just want to share it with someone deserving.

‘It is designed to be a lovely home suitable to meet the needs of everyone including a wheelchair user.’

Svitlana initially moved to a rented apartment in Uzhood, western Ukraine but it had three flight of stairs which was unsuitable for her wheelchairs and her sons had to carry her to the upper floors.

On Monday she purchased flight tickets with Wizz Air from Poland to Luton believing Tymoffii’s visa would be granted, but when it became apparent there was a delay she cancelled the journey.

Svitlana has now bought tickets for a new flight next Monday, but ‘she has no confidence that the visa will be sorted out by then’.

As Wright used to work in the Home Office herself for two years from 2001 in the role of director general of IT for criminal justice she believes she is not the reason for the delay.

Wright dded: ‘I would have been closely vetted before getting that post, so I am pretty sure that I am not the problem.’

A Government spokesperson said: ‘Thanks to the generosity of the public who have offered their homes to Ukrainians fleeing the war and through the Ukraine Family Scheme, more than 71,800 visas have been granted with 21,600 Ukrainians arriving safely in the UK.

‘The Home Office is now processing thousands of visas a day – this shows the changes made to streamline the service are working and we’ll continue to build on this success so we can speed up the process even further.’

Jo Wright chairs the national charity Back Up Trust which supports people with spinal injuries.