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Home Office apologises for telling Boddam woman she should travel to Ukraine days before war broke out

People fleeing Ukraine arrive by train at Western Railway Station in Budapest, Hungary on March 1, 2022. Photo by Xinhua/Shutterstock
People fleeing Ukraine arrive by train at Western Railway Station in Budapest, Hungary on March 1, 2022. Photo by Xinhua/Shutterstock

The Home Office has apologised to a woman sent to Ukraine for visa documents just as the war broke out.

Natalya Fisher, 38, who lives in Boddam with her husband Peter, had a visitor visa which was due to expire on April 28.

Despite the heightening tension in Ukraine, officials insisted she must go back to sort out the paperwork in person, and warned her she would be treated as an “illegal alien” if her visa expired.

Mrs Fisher set off on February 20 – just days before Putin invaded her homeland.

What happened?

Home Office Secretary Priti Patel.

After travelling to Ukraine, Mrs Fisher then became stranded as Russian forces began invading on February 24.

Meeting her family in the city of Dnipro just three days before Russia invaded, she texted her husband to update him on the increasingly dire situation.

While in Dnipro, she ended up making Molotov cocktails for resistance efforts instead of filling in visa forms.

She managed to get to Uzhhorod, close to the border with Hungary and Slovakia.

Mr Fisher had to use the cash they set aside for a spouse visa to cover his travel costs to go and meet her to get her home.

Smoke rises over the part of Ukraine’s capital situated on the right bank of the Dnipro River in the morning on Sunday February 27, Kyiv, capital of Ukraine. Photo by Ukrinform/Shutterstock

‘This should not have happened’

A Home Office spokesman said: “We have apologised to Ms Fisher for the advice she received at the time, which should not have happened.

“We are glad that Ms Fisher and her husband are safely back home.

“We have since introduced the Ukraine Family Scheme and the Homes for Ukraine Scheme, allowing Ukrainian nationals to come to the UK whether they have existing family here or not.

“We have also made a number of changes to streamline the visa system, including simplifying the forms and boosting staff numbers.

“We are now processing visas as quickly as they come in, with over 86,000 visas issued to date.”

MSP Karen Adam, who represents the Banffshire and Buchan Coast, who assisted the couple with the matter, said: “The most important thing is that both Natalya and Peter are back at home safely in Boddam.

“Natalya should never have been made to go back to Ukraine, particularly when the UK government knew of pending Russian invasion with the build up of Russian troops on the border.”

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