Family overcomes visa saga to make it to Fermanagh

UKRAINIANS fleeing the conflict have been facing a visa nightmare coming to Fermanagh, with one family now settled in the county even have to return to the war-torn country just to get their passports sorted.
At a special coffee morning at Fermanagh House on Friday, organised by the local ERANO refugee support group to connect Ukrainians and their host families, local man Barry Mylam told the Herald of the frustrating journey the family he and his wife were hosting in Irvinestown had faced getting here.
Mr Mylam and his wife decided to sponsor a family after watching the scenes of horror unfolding on the news. After doing much research online, they held a long video call with the family-of-five before filling out their sponsorship forms.
He said while he thought the Homes for Ukraine visa scheme was a good idea, the implementation had been “terrible.”
“They had actually left Ukraine in the first week of the war, and they only got here on Monday, largely because of the way this scheme is being implemented,” he said on Friday.
Mr Mylam explained how the family – whose children are aged 15, six and two – had arrived in Bucharest after fleeing Kyiv, where they managed to get a flat for two months. Having already submitted their visa paperwork before leaving Ukraine, and having it accepted for all five of them.
However, the two youngest children did not have biometric passports, so they had to go to the visa centre in Bucharest.
“I eventually got hold of the Home Office about April 20th to find out their visas were issued on April 15th and no one had told them,” said Mr Mylam.
“Then the Bucharest visa centre denied ever having been told that the two children had visas.
In meantime, in Kyiv, before they left they had applied for biometric passports for them, and the people in Kyiv managed to fight a war, drive the Russians away, reopen their passport office, and then send them an email saying their passports were ready.
“So they then drove from Bucharest back to Kyiv to get their children’s passports. Then they’ve driven from there to here. They looked absolutely shattered when they arrived.”
Now that they’ve arrived, however, things have been going well, and they have been settling in. The youngest children have already started school in Irvinestown, while their teenager, who Mr Mylam said was “very bright” has an interview with the Royal Grammar School.
Fellow host Derek Thompson, who Mr Mylam helped set up with a Ukrainian family, has had a similarly positive experience locally. He and his wife Briege, who live outside Irvinestown, said they too held a number of video calls with the Ukrainian mother and daughter who have now been staying with them since April 12th.
“She is a very nice lady and she’d fitted in very well, and her daughter who is five is at school,” he said. “She goes on the school bus to school, she just loves it.”
Mr Thompson said the lady and her daughter had been getting on very well with his family, and most people in the community were very welcoming. The families were even planning a caravan trip to the seaside at the weekend.

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