Cashing in on misery: Home Office’s policy and privatised visa services in Europe are a chaotic, inhumane scam

Ukrainian refugees from 2022, crossing into Poland Photo by Міністерство внутрішніх справ України Creative Commons 4.0

Johnson repeatedly lies that no country in Europe taken more refugees since 2015 than us.

This heart-rending report is from Lindsay Bruce. Lindsay writes for Press and Journal.

‘Remember my story of the Ukrainian women in Aberdeen trying to get their family a UK family scheme visa to flee Ukraine? They found out after a whole day filling out one application that the visitor visas (they were granted before war broke out but which were lost by UK) mean they are disqualified from applying for the family scheme that came in as a result of war. These two educated women, in a non-war zone have taken an entire day to fill out one application that is now void.

BUT if they decide to cancel the visitor visas the only way the family members can get past the first level of the UK visa red tape is to somehow – and I quote – get to a shop in Poland so their documents can be printed and verified’. They also have to have a verified translator to translate for them at a cost.

They’re in a bloody war people! They don’t have a pen, a photocopier, access to a translator… they are sleeping on the floor of a bomb shelter with their kids. They grabbed one suitcase for all for of them and ran. This is an absolute embarrassment. They were asked to prove how much they earn. What difference does that make now their city has been bombed?? Come on Home Office and Priti Patel, can we help this Aberdeen family?

UPDATE: Aberdeen South MP @StephenFlynnSNP raised Mariya’s case in Parliament today asking the Sec of State for Defence to ‘put a rocket up the Home Office.’ Full article including his video here:

Originally tweeted by Lindsay the Bruce (@LLBruce) on 08/03/2022.

Patel point blank lied about the facility in Calais. There was and is no facility. There was a trestle table with crisps and Kit-Kats. Liz Truss said the pop-up facility at Lille was on the route to Calais. It isn’t, because Lille isn’t.

And there’s this from journalist John Lichfield:

“I’m reliably told there is a good (or bad) reason why Priti Patel and Boris Johnson refuse to allow Ukrainian refugees to apply for UK visas when they arrive in Calais. The reason? To block legal applications by asylum-seekers from other countries.

Someone who has been directly involved in UK visa operations in the past points out to me that any UK visa office in Calais would, in theory, be open to non-Ukrainian applicants (ie the Calais boat people from Afghanistan, Syria and elsewhere|).

They could go to the Calais UK visa office and submit an asylum application. That’s the last thing the Home Office wants, I’m told. It would expose the cynicism and hypocrisy of Patel’s “two-tier” borders policy.

This policy is based on saying 1) asylum applications will only be processed if made officially while still abroad (but we will make that as hard as possible). 2) anyone who arrives “illegally” without having submitted an application will be jailed.

If a visa office opens in Calais, it would become easier for the “Calais migrants” of all nationalities to make applications. This would be be long and tortuous, no doubt, but it might at least discourage people from risking their lives in small boats.

Nonetheless – despite paying lip-service to the horror of drownings etc – the Home Office is, I’m told, determined to keep visa operations away from Calais to discourage the asylum seekers already camped out there.

The Home Office says that visa/asylum applications can only be made at a “recognised centre” but such centres are hard to find and use. In France, as in other countries, collection of applications/biometric data (but NOT the final decision) has been hived-off to private companies.

In Paris it’s a company called TLS Contact in the 9th arrondissement. Applicants fill in an on-line form before going to a “collection point” where they hand over their passport. It can be many weeks before their passport is returned – sometimes with visa, often without.
[Originally tweeted by John Lichfield (@john_lichfield) on 09/03/2022.]

And that private company profiteering from misery?

Priti Patel ignored warnings over firm behind Ukraine visa ‘chaos’.

Patel was told by the Independent Chief Inspector of Borders & Immigration in Nov 2021 that TLS Contact was so hell-bent on making profit that its use posed a risk of “reputational damage” to Great Britain.

You can read more in OpenDemocracy’s article here.

Lawyer Fionna O’Leary takes up the story, digging further as a result of Open Democracy’s report.

“The firm has been handed government contracts worth hundreds of millions of pounds since 2014. Its sole focus is income generation. The human aspect is not at all valued,” one British Embassy whistleblower told the Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration.

The whistleblower added:

“There are applicants being persuaded to buy unnecessary additional services at the [VACs]… The most recent contract with external commercial partners has meant that it is through ‘upselling’ these additional services that partners make their money.”

This article refers to Teleperformance Ltd being the parent company but the open Company House Records has a different, Luxembourg registered, company as the sole shareholder at least in 2016: TLS Group SA.

“A British man who fled Kyiv with his Ukrainian family told openDemocracy he had been given a waiting time of 13 days for a visa appointment at TLSContact’s Budapest centre.”

Wes Gleeson, 43, moved to Ukraine in 2010. He said it was “embarrassing” just how difficult it was to secure a UK visa, adding he had experienced similar problems with the company for years.

“The application tracker doesn’t work. The booking system doesn’t work,” he said of his dealings with the company in the past. “The only thing that seems to work is the parts where they’re trying to upsell stuff to you.”

“Gleeson, originally from Oxford, said his wife Inna, 38, no longer wanted to come to the UK at all because of how difficult the government had made it for Ukrainian refugees to enter the country.”

I don’t know where all the money is going re TLSContact Ltd as their 2020 accounts show them to be in significant debt (£2 mill).

Maybe they are paying out huge dividendss to its parent company to keep the company in paper debt, thus avoiding tax?

“I know not.” says Fionna

This is the sister (or possibly has become parent company since 2016 but not showing in the open filed docs) to TLSContact Ltd that has the Home Office contract.

Teleperformance Ltd has far bigger NHS contracts also subject to controversy.

Originally tweeted by Fionna O’Leary, 🕯🇪🇺 (@fascinatorfun) on 09/03/2022.

We need a public inquiry into the visa application process and we need it now. And we need a visa waiver for Ukrainian refugees YESTERDAY.