UKRAINE’S ambassador to the UK has called for the refugee visa requirement to be lifted by Tory ministers as he pointed to “bureaucratic hassles” even before the Russian invasion of his homeland.

Vadym Prystaiko has told MPs that it would help ease the pressure on refugees fleeing the war in Ukraine if “all the barriers are dropped” by the UK Government, in line with the approach taken by the European Union.

The UK Government has faced severe criticism for the pace at which Ukrainian refugees are being granted permission to arrive in the UK, with the blame being put on red tape compared to the EU system, where vias are not being required.

A UK Government minister has acknowledged that there are “lessons to be learned” from the criticism as it was confirmed 760 visas have now been granted.

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Mr Prystaiko told the Commons Home Affairs Committee that we acknowledged that immigration was a “very sensitive” issue in the UK, pointing to the Syrian refugee crisis which he claimed “was manufactured by Russia pushing out these people from Syria, flooding with immigration, wave after wave, to Europe”. 

He added: “That would definitely resolve all the issues, but how reasonable, how justified it is with your own system, that’s frankly for you to decide.

“We will be happy if all the barriers are dropped for some period of time when we can get maximum (numbers) of people, then we will deal with that.”

He said at least 100,000 people could try to reunite with relatives in the UK via the Ukraine Family Scheme, but criticised the process for approving new arrivals.

The diplomat told the Commons Home Affairs Committee that visa applications had been “tough” for Ukrainians “even before the war” with Moscow started last month.

Mr Prystaiko told MPs that his officials would help process refugees arriving in the UK if ministers cave to pressure and visa rules are lifted.

He said: “If you can vote for some temporary releasing of us from these rules, to allow people to get here, we will take care of (them).

“I don’t expect many of them to come.

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“I don’t want to see these pictures of people banging at the doors in Calais and scratching the doors which are quite sealed.”

The ambassador also told the Commons committee that there were “always bureaucratic hassles” in applying for UK visas, even before the conflict with Russia began last month.

He said: “To process visas, there was always bureaucratic hassles.

“I have to tell you that even when I was coming here as ambassador I got my visa on time, (but) although I was already approved by your Government, my wife didn’t have it.

“So even simple things like that – the bureaucracy is so tough.

“And when we reached agreement for a visa-free arrangement with Europeans, which worked quite beautifully for almost 10 years, we never managed to open this particular nation.”

UK Transport Secretary Grant Shapps acknowledged there were “lessons to be learned” in its response to the crisis which has seen more than two million people leave Ukraine to escape the Russian invasion.

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He claimed, however, that the government of President Volodymyr Zelensky wanted as many people as possible to remain in the region so they could quickly return to rebuild the country when it is safe to do so.

Speaking to Sky News, Mr Shapps said: “President Zelensky and the Ukrainian government have told me that they do not want people to move far away, if at all possible, from the country, because they want people to be able to come back.

“We are really leaning into this, at the same time respecting Ukraine’s wishes, the government’s wishes, not to pull people a long way away from Ukraine.”

Following fierce criticism from a number of Tory MPs, Mr Shapps said 760 visas have now been granted, with 22,000 applications “on their way through”.

“With 6,000 appointments a day available now, you should see the processing rate increase,” he told BBC Breakfast.