Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MP, Angus MacNeil has today met with a family who fled war-torn Ukraine to come to the Isle of Lewis. 

Derek and Nataliya Macleod from the West Side of Lewis contacted Mr MacNeil for help in arranging for family to get out of Ukraine following Russia’s invasion.

Mr MacNeil and constituency office staff had weeks of frantic dealings with the Home Office, who bizarrely insist that people who have been caught up in the conflict must go through the visa application process before coming to Scotland.  After many weeks and angry exchanges with the Home Office they are finally safe with family on Lewis.

Commenting Angus MacNeil MP said:

“Derek and Nataliya Macleod were anxiously trying to get their family out of Ukraine to come and live with them in their home on the West Side of Lewis.

“The grim policies of the UK Government insisting upon visa applications which involved an immense amount of paperwork and added enormous stress to what was already a traumatic time.  This was in stark contrast to EU countries which showed compassion and waived the need for visas.

“This has probably been one of the most challenging cases I have dealt with and I can only begin to imagine how stressful a time this was for Derek, Nataliya and family.  Nataliya told me that she lost kilograms in weight and didn’t sleep well for weeks because of the extra stress to get them to safety.

“Today I was very pleased to meet with the family.  As MP for the islands, I conveyed my delight and that of everyone who has spoken about it, that the family have made their way to safety.  There was a funny moment, when one thought my face was familiar, later she realised that she had seen me asking questions in the House of Commons for Ukrainian people to come to Scotland, which she said she had seen broadcast on Ukrainian TV before she left.

“It was a moving and happy moment when the youngest of the family, 6-year-old Nataliia gave me a poster she had made as a thank you which I will put on the wall in my office.

Commenting Derek Macleod said:

“I would just like to say, on behalf of myself and my wife’s Ukrainian family, the biggest thank you to Angus MacNeil MP and Constituency Office staff, we are so grateful for their help to get to the island safely.

“The Home Office said that there was a visa application centre in Warsaw that we could walk into and do the biometrics and application but that wasn’t quite true and we were going to have to wait till the 22nd to be seen. Then we were told we could go to Ireland to do biometrics there, however Dublin was very busy as it was St Patrick’s Day and the rugby was on, making finding a hotel an issue. 

“It turned out that the UK Visa Centre in Dublin were unable to take our biometrics and we had to apply again for the 4th time in order to just register the passports on the application, luckily most of this work was done in Angus MacNeil’s Constituency Office in Stornoway which helped a lot.

“The hoops we had to jump through was very expensive, in travel and hotels, and it was traumatic for our whole party.

“I truly hope I never have to go through that ever again. It took me over 2 weeks to get a proper sleep.  I was imagining vivid scenes of possible deportation and disappointment, I was terrified of failing these people and having to say I’m sorry, I lied to you when I said I was taking you to safety. 

“We had to go through 4 different countries over 4 days and take disappointment after disappointment to get them finally here, God only knows how we got here. My mother is the greatest person in the world in my book, and knowing she was praying for me every minute of the day, kept me thinking we were going to be okay.

“When you are in a situation where everything goes wrong, but somehow you managed to get through it even shocking yourself that you managed to get them here. It was like that but on steroids.

“We are now sitting in the sun breathing Hebridean air celebrating May Holiday together.  Life for them is truly better and we say thank you, thank you, thank you.”