A red tape delay over a travel visa has resulted in a Chernobyl orphan missing out on a dream Christmas visit to her Scottish ‘family’.
Yaroslava Naida (14) was told just days before she was due to fly from Kiev that her visa had been denied on the grounds that there wasn’t enough information.
The schoolgirl was left broken by the decision, having spent two other holidays with Anna Beattie and her family in Cupar over the last eight years; holidays which turned a “tiny frightened and bedraggled six-year-old into a confident, healthy teenager”.
Since then North East Fife MP Stephen Gethins has been calling on the Home Office to reconsider its decision and, last week, wrote to Home Secretary Theresa May asking her to personally intervene.
However, two days after Yaroslava had been due to arrive, the Government department did a U-turn informing her grandmother that a visa would be granted.
Anna said Yaroslava was delighted to hear the news, but it wasn’t to last after officials then said she now faced a wait of up to five days for the document to be processed.
She said: “They are playing with a young girl’s emotions and she’s not coping very well. She was very, very excited then upset, she was broken and now in a state of disbelief.”
Yaraslova, who lives with her penniless grandmother and siblings in a one bedroom flat on the edge of Ukraine’s ‘dead zone’, has formed close bond with Anna and her own children over the years.
“My own children are also devastated by this, Anna said, “but as soon as we hear she can come I’ll be trying to get her on the next flight. We have already lost the money for the flights that had to be cancelled. “
Expressing his disappointment at the situation, Stephen Gethins MP said: “This is an outrageous way to treat people who are trying to do the right thing by others who are less fortunate than themselves, at Christmas time.
“The Home Office told my office on two occasions that her application had been denied and there was no way to appeal. Suddenly, after a media enquiry Yaroslava’s grandmother received a call to say a visa would be processed. We have two families here who are now left very upset and confused, all because officials have obviously made a huge mistake.
“I have already written to Theresa May MP and expect her response. I will also be raising this in Parliament once we reconvene, this cannot be allowed to happen to another child.”
A Home Office spokesman said: “We received an application for a visit visa for the 14-year-old on November 30. This was refused on December 7, as the application was lacking in supporting evidence.
“The case was reviewed on December 18 after additional supporting evidence was submitted and the decision was reversed. The applicant was informed of this decision on the same day via an email address she had supplied. The applicant responded to the email, by submitting the passport as requested. The visa was issued following receipt of the passport in our office on December 22.
“As we cannot tell in advance how long it will take to decide particular cases, our advice is always not to make non-urgent travel arrangements until the passport or travel documents have been returned.”