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Ukrainian children who have arrived in the UK via the family visa scheme are left at risk as officials are unaware of their whereabouts and wellbeing, the Mirror understands.

Last week the Government extended its Ukraine Family Scheme to allow unaccompanied Ukrainian children and teenagers to apply for a visa and come to the UK under the sponsorship scheme if they have parental consent.

Levelling Up Secretary Michael Gove said extensive checks will be carried out by local authorities on the sponsor before a visa is granted with councils able to veto matches.

Refugees minister Lord Harrington admitted safeguarding checks are not being carried out because they are being reunited with family.

Paul Morrison, director of the Government’s humanitarian task force added the family visa scheme will operate “like any other” reuniting programme, hinting there will be no need for post-arrival checks.

Lord Harrington speaking to the Levelling Up Committee ( Parliament TV)

Labour MP Clive Betts, chair of the Commons Levelling Up committee today stressed that local authorities “have a duty to undertake safeguarding checks for minors”.

He later told the Mirror: “It is worrying that no one thought about the children coming via this family scheme.

“Many children will be welcomed into loving homes. But it is concerning that some refugee children will slip through the cracks. They may not even know these family members, or relations could sever.

“This is an issue waiting to become a huge problem.”

Mr Betts questioned their thinking, urging them to clarify if they would know how close families would need to be to a minor in order to accept them in the UK.

“We will check the basis of their relationship before accepting visas,” George Shirley, deputy director of family and Ukraine services noted.

Andy Hewett, Head of Advocacy at the Refugee Council, said: “We are deeply worried by the clear lack of safeguarding checks in place to ensure the safety of children arriving in the UK via the Ukraine Family Scheme.

“The idea that vulnerable children are potentially at risk, with local authorities unaware of their whereabouts and wellbeing, is deeply shocking and we urge Government to address this urgently.

“Families being torn apart by conflict and children being separated from their parents or usual carer is the cruellest aspect of any conflict.

“It is imperative that the schemes set up to protect refugees in the UK receive sufficient attention and support to ensure they are fit for purpose.”

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