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‘I miss our roots’: Ukrainians on what the refugee scheme extension means for them

Ludmila misses her parents and longs to return home to Ukraine. 

War forced her to flee the country in 2022.

Ludmila Kolesnyk and her family
Image: Ludmila Kolesnyk and her family

Pregnant at the time, she waited until the birth of her youngest child to be reunited with her husband.

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“I hope one day we can return back to Ukraine, especially me and my husband,” she told Sky News.

“I miss our roots, and I miss my parents and my brother.”

Ludmila is among 200,000 Ukrainians who arrived in the UK on various refugee schemes since the war broke out.

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They will all now be eligible to stay for an additional 18 months after the UK government extended the scheme.

That means Ukrainians who arrived almost two years ago can stay in the UK until September 2026.

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Ukrainians offered visa extension

But while Ludmila is keen to go home, she says she hopes her children can settle here.

“I think for children the best thing is to leave [Ukraine] and build their lives in this country,” she said.

The right to return is fundamental in international law and the British government says it is providing certainty and stability for Ukrainians by extending the scheme.

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Ukrainian refugees will continue to have the same rights to access work, benefits, healthcare and education throughout their stay.

Immigration lawyer Amer Rahman says the success of the scheme could be replicated with refugees from other conflicts.

Amer Rahman
Image: Amer Rahman

“There have been crises in Afghanistan, Sudan and Syria but if you compare the policies which were in place for those – let’s say with the Afghan nationals, the approach in terms of the Ukrainian nationals has been very flexible,” he said.

“Mostly, when people are granted refugee status they are eligible to apply for settlement status after five years in the UK.

“Many prefer to stay here rather than return home because they have established a life here in the UK.”

Myroslava Ulianina says the three-year scheme is too short.

Myroslava Ulianina
Image: Myroslava Ulianina

“It gave me the possibility to stay in the UK officially, with the permission to work, to live, to rent an apartment, to build your life during three years.

“It looks rather good, three years, [seems like a] long time. But time flies.”

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Myroslava says she will only return to “an amazing, peaceful Ukraine” and not for good.

“I’m waiting for a time when I can go to the airport, grab a plane and with no problem, visit my family and then come back.”

Sky News Source