Ukrainian child wins Scotland visa battle after guinea pigs approved, but she wasn’t

A child refugee from Ukraine has won the right to come to Scotland thanks to a revolutionary change in visa rules.

Nataliia Zavhorodnia, 15, found herself in the bizarre situation where her two guinea pigs had been approved to travel but her case was blocked by the Interior Ministry.

Although she traveled with her aunt, she was classified as an “unaccompanied child” because she had left her parents in the war zone, which made her ineligible for a visa under current laws.

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But a campaign to endorse his trip – highlighted by the Sunday Mail – finally succeeded and could now help other people in the same situation.

Kate Fuller, 40, who was paired up to give Nataliia a spare bedroom at her home in Hamilton which she shares with her husband Martin, 37, said: “It’s a big happy ending for Nataliia, we are all so thrilled, but I just think of all the other kids in the same situation.

Her MP Margaret Ferrier was able to secure approval for Nataliia’s visa on Wednesday after pushing for a last-minute intervention from the Minister for Refugees, Lord Harrington, who personally signed off on entry into the UK.

As late as Tuesday evening, the request was again rejected by the Interior Ministry, suggesting that Nataliia should either return to Ukraine or go to a refugee camp.



Nataliia Zavhorodnia (R) with her mother Hanna (Image: COLLECT)

It is understood his case is likely the first of its kind to be approved for travel, giving hope to other children traveling without their parents.

Ferrier said: “I am grateful that ministers have taken note of this matter and recognized the urgency, so that Nataliia does not have to return to Ukraine alone.

“I hope that other cases can now be resolved quickly so that other children do not have to face the same stressful situation as Nataliia.”

Hanna, Nataliia’s mother, has made the difficult decision to have her daughter leave Ukraine with her aunt Millena, as the young women are threatened with attack by invading Russian soldiers.

The couple fled to neighboring Moldova before crossing into Hungary where they had been staying in temporary accommodation in Budapest while visa applications to bring them to the UK were submitted.

Hanna, 42, remains in Kyiv with Nataliia’s nine-year-old brother Sasha and her father Oleksii, 42, who is helping with the war effort.

But while a visa for Millena, 34, was approved almost immediately in early April, Nataliia’s was rejected as she is classed as an ‘unaccompanied child’ traveling without her parents – even though documents were presented for show their consent.

But while the teenager was told no, at the same time another part of the UK government – ​​the Department for Food and Rural Affairs – approved the trip of its two guinea pigs, Melon and Julienne, as part of of a special pet travel program in Ukraine.

As revealed by the Sunday Mail last month, Nataliia wrote a heartfelt letter to the Home Office, including Minister Priti Patel, telling how she feared she would have to return to Ukraine and “return to danger, return and live again with the war outside my window”.

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MP Ferrier, who has been working on the case with her team for two months, added: “I am delighted that the Home Office has finally approved Nataliia’s request to come to Scotland. I’m really looking forward to meeting Nataliia and Millena once they’ve had a chance to settle into their new home.

“Kate should be incredibly proud of her dedicated advocacy for Nataliia throughout what has been a long and difficult process. I am also very proud of my team, who have worked tirelessly to make this happen.

Kate told the Sunday Mail that Nataliia and Millena have now traveled from Budapest to Paris and plan to cross the ferry at Dover to arrive in the UK this Friday.

Kate and Martin make arrangements to take them from Dover to Hamilton.

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