It's the Welsh Government's aim for Wales to become a "nation of sanctuary", and with more than six million Ukrainian refugees displaced since the Russian invasion six months ago, Wales's aims in this regard are being put to the test.

In the face of public outcry in the wake of the invasion, the UK Government opened immigration routes for Ukrainians looking to reach the UK, including the Ukraine Family Visa Scheme and the 'Homes for Ukraine' scheme. By the middle of July 99,700 people had arrived in the UK through those two schemes alone.

Through the latter scheme, the Welsh Government pledged to become a "super sponsor" and sponsor at least 1,000 people coming from to Wales from Ukraine.

However, last month, the Welsh Government announced a temporary pause on new applications.


At the time, Minister for Social Justice Jane Hutt said: “This temporary pause will give us the opportunity to refine the arrangements we have put in place to support people on arrival and ensure all public services, in particular local authorities, can continue to deliver a high standard of support.

“To be clear, this operational pause will not affect any current applications and people will continue to arrive in Wales as visas are granted and travel arrangements are confirmed.”

According to the latest Welsh Government figures, by July 19 they had sponsored 4,965 visa applications by Ukrainian refugees - nearly five times the amount that they had initially pledged. Of these applications, 4,374 visas have been issued and 1,913 refugees have arrived.

This is alongside 3,535 visa applications sponsored by individuals in Wales. From these, 3,138 visas have been issued and there have been 2,279 arrivals.

The Welsh Government has exceeded its initial target to become a 'super sponsor' for 1,000 Ukrainian refugees, however there seem to be issues with housing families who have made the journey.The number of visa applications for Ukrainian refugees sponsored in Wales according to the Welsh Government's latest figures.

When the pause on 'super sponsor' applications was made the Welsh Government later clarified that no new applications would be accepted until the arrangements in place for supporting refugees had been refined.

At present there are six Arrival Hubs in Wales for Ukrainian refugees - at Holyhead, Fishguard, Pembroke Dock, Cardiff Airport, Cardiff Central and Wrexham - where refugees can access provisions including access to interpreter services and support for health needs.

Meanwhile the five Welcome Centres being operated by the Welsh Government are designed to house Ukrainian refugees for up to three months while long term accommodation is sourced.

Refugees from Ukraine whose visas have been sponsored by the Welsh Government are allocated a spot at one of these Welcome Centres.

READ MORE: 'We saw the human cost of conflict': Newport man on trip to Ukraine

However, Ukrainian families can only reach these Welcome Centres pending the approval of their visas by the UK Home Office - it emerged recently that one Ukrainian family sponsored by a person in Connah's Quay have abandoned plans to re-settle in the UK and opted for Norway instead.

Despite their sponsor being ready since March, visa approvals came through for some family members while others are still waiting for their applications to be processed.

Each of this particular family's visa applications for refuge in Norway were approved within hours.

Elizabeth Darbey, who sponsored the family, said: "I understand many Ukrainians are here, but I do believe a huge obstacle is in place to slow it down."

The Welsh Government has exceeded its initial target to become a 'super sponsor' for 1,000 Ukrainian refugees, however there seem to be issues with housing families who have made the journey.Khrystyna Makar who has performed at some of the world's leading opera houses has sought refuge in Wales.

Regarding the 'super sponsor' scheme, a Welsh Government spokesperson said: “We are continuing to work hard to ensure every Ukrainian gets the accommodation and support they need to feel safe and rebuild their lives here in Wales. We have committed to reviewing the pause on new super sponsor applications during recess and will provide regular updates on the Scheme.

“In the meantime, we are continuing to prepare for the arrival of Ukrainians whose visas have been granted but not yet arrived in the UK, as well as continue the integration journey of everyone who has arrived so far.”

If you value The National's journalism, help grow our team of reporters by becoming a subscriber.