THE HOME OFFICE has been urged to set up instant application point for Ukrainians fleeing the conflict and told to 'stop messing about'.

MPs challenged a junior minister in the Commons over the 'shambolic' system which has seen just 500 visas approved from more than 10,000 applications submitted since Friday.

The Home Office said last night that there had been a total of 17,700 applications started and 8,900 submitted.

MPs were also outraged to hear that the department is setting up a visa processing centre for those who have reached Calais in Lille - 70 miles away - and questioned how Ukrainians would be able to get there, with the minister saying the department may potentially provide travel.

Junior Home Office minister Kevin Foster announced the Family Scheme had now been extended to include distant reatives including aunts, uncles, nephews, nieces, cousins and in-laws. 

Labour's Yvette Cooper urged the junior Home Office minister, to set up rapid processing sites where people could apply, be screened and issued emergency visas on the spot. 

The shadow Home Secretary said: "Two million refugees have left Ukraine. 

"Other countries are supporting hundreds of thousands of people -  the Home Office is currently issuing just around 250 family scheme visas a day.

"Both people want to stay close to home, but some want to come here to join family or friends and we should be helping them. Instead most people are still being held up by home office bureaucracy or being turned away."

The Labour MP added that some 600 people in Calais have been told to go to a visa centre in Brussels which is only open three days a week, or Paris where the next appointment is in a weeks' time. 

She said: "The Government should not be continuing to change this in a chaotic way, rather than opening the system properly .

"Will the government urgently set up emergency visa centres at all major travel points, do the security checks on the spot and then issue emergency visas for Ukrainians so they can come here, and the UK can do our historic bit to help refugees fleeing war in Europe as we've done before?"

SNP MP Stuart McDonald, the party's home affairs spokesman, urged the government to scrap visas altogether.

He said: "It's time to stop messing about with a broken bureaucracy.

"It's time to scrap it all together.

"No more visas required is how we quickly fulfil our obligations to the people of Ukraine. Our European allies can do that safely and securely so why can't the Home Secretary also?"

He also dismissed the minister's claims that security concerns were the reason for making people apply for visas and go through screening.

He said: "There are other ways to address security concerns, after arrival as we did with evacuated Afghans  - don't quote Salisbury at us, that has absolutely nothing to do with this altogether." 

Mr Foster said earlier that there had been incidents of people "pretending to be Ukrainian" in order to try and gain entry into the UK, adding:" Sadly, we are already seeing people presenting at Calais with false documents claiming to be Ukrainian.

"With incidents like Salisbury still in our minds the government will not take chances with the security of this country and our people.

"Our friends in the United States, Canada and Australia are rightly taking the same approach as we are."

Alistair Carmichael, the Liberal Democrat MP for Orkney and Shetland said the handling of the visas had been "chaos and incompetence".

He also criticised Mr Foster directly for a previous tweet in which he suggested Ukrainians could come to the UK to work as fruit pickers. 

He criticised the plans to have a visa centre in Lille, saying: "Ukrainian families fleeing Putin's terror shouldn't be forced to wait for an appointment at a Home Office visa centre that doesn't even exist yet.

“People across the UK want to welcome Ukrainian refugees with compassion, but instead Priti Patel is trapping them in limbo. 

"Our country has a proud history of providing sanctuary for people fleeing war and persecution. The Government must live up to that now, with a simple, fast and safe route for refugees to come to the UK."

Tory MP Caroline Nokes rebuked the Home Office for not moving quickly enough, and joked that "snails also move at pace".

She said: "There is no date set yet for humanitarian sponsorship visa, and as a result, those people coming forward with generous offers are advising their Ukrainian friends to apply for a visitor's visa.

"But what of those who do not have passports, what of those children who are completely undocumented? When the Minister says he is moving at pace, it needs to be a great deal faster."