Dominic Raab has been urged to stop ‘obstructing’ a group of orphans coming from Ukraine to the UK.

Ian Blackford, the SNP’s Westminster leader, raised the issue at Prime Minister’s Questions today, accusing the deputy PM Dominic Raab of dragging his feet over their case.

Mr Raab, who was standing in for Boris Johnson while he is in Saudi Arabia, was asked to help bring 48 orphans being supported by charity Dnipro Kids to Scotland.

The charity was founded by a Hibs supporter in 2005 after the Edinburgh team played a match in the Ukrainian city, and has seen groups of orphans come to the Easter Road ground to watch Hibs play over the years. Charity workers have also travelled to Ukraine and offered support to children repeatedly during the past 17 years.

Since the conflict started in Ukraine last month, Dnipro Kids have managed to evacuate 48 orphans and their guardians to Poland, and want to give them safe temporary refuge in Scotland.

Mr Blackford claimed that Home Office paperwork was the only reason they had been unable to come to over.

Mr Blackford said: “I have spent the last week trying to help the Scottish charity – Dnipro kids, established by fans of Hibernian football club - who have evacuated 48 children from orphanages in Ukraine and are desperately attempting to provide them with temporary sanctuary in Scotland.

“There is a plane ready and waiting in Poland to bring these orphans to the UK on Friday but that flight will leave empty without the necessary paperwork from the Home Office.”

He said the Polish authorities, Edinburgh city council, the Scottish government and the guardians of the children were trying to bring them to safety.

He added: “I’ve even worked well with UK governments ministers to try and make this happen.

“But a week on, the Home Office is still proving to be the only obstacle in the way and it risks leaving these children stranded.  

“So, I’m pleading with the deputy Prime Minister - remove these obstructions before it is too late.
“Will he work with me and the Ukrainian authorities to guarantee that these 48 Ukrainian orphans will get on that plane this Friday?”

Mr Raab said it was a “heart-rending situation” and he wanted to do “all we can” but indicated the situation was complex and involved the Ukrainian government.

He said there were “safeguarding issues” and added: “We want to do everything we can. Of course, there are a range of issues in this case, including the wishes of the Ukrainian government on where orphaned children should go and should be living, whether any necessary permissions have been sought from the Ukrainian and/or Polish governments.

“This isn't actually about bureaucracy. It's about genuine safeguarding issues, but I certainly want to work with him in the best interests of those children.”

He later suggested there had to be clarification on whether the children’s relatives in Ukraine had been contacted and again stressed the issue of safeguarding the children as a reason why there could be issues bringing them to the UK.

Kevin Foster, junior Home Office minister later suggested permission for the children to move from Poland had not been granted by the Ukrainian Government, which is ultimately the guardian of the orphans. 

He tweeted that it would be "wrong to move children without attempting to reunite them with their family first and without the agreement of their home and host governments."