DOLLAR could soon become the Wee County's Little Ukraine, but residents say it's with little thanks to the UK Government.

The town has welcomed three Ukrainian refugee families last week, but many are still waiting for visa applications, despite dozens offering up homes as early as March.

This week, kind-hearted residents who volunteered their homes under the Ukraine Sponsorship Scheme, also known as Homes for Ukraine, have criticised the government over the process.

It follows concerns raised by MP John Nicolson over the low number of visas issued for people to arrive to the Wee County.

However, the government explained it has made changes to streamline the service, processing “thousands of visas a day”.

The latest statistics show 12 visas have now been issued as of April 26, up from just seven the week before.

This comes despite reportedly large numbers of people offering their homes under the scheme.

Indeed, in Dollar alone, a group of around 30 families have banded together to form a group, having all applied near the start of March.

Resident David Louden, who brought the group together, had sought support from an immigration lawyer in Glasgow to help with applications from Ukrainian refugees.

He told the Advertiser: “It then all went quiet, and this is really due to the government not having their act together in terms of putting in place the necessary resources to process the applications.”

David spoke of the “needless bureaucracy” of having to secure biometric screening and visas for people who already have full passports.

“This was an extra layer of hurdles that people wanting to come to the UK had to go through”, he explained.

David said he has seen cases where up to five weeks went by without anyone hearing back and also criticised the usefulness of a government helpline set up to give updates on applications, saying it never provided any useful information.

The Dollar man had to “start rattling a lot of cages”, getting in touch with media outlets and MPs to get applications moving. Eventually, he was able welcome the Sokolova family to Scotland last week.

However, David added: “There are others who applied at the same time we did that are still [waiting].

“I've got one case where a mother got her visa and permission to travel two weeks ago, but her 11-year-old daughter has not yet received her visa, so obviously the mother can't travel.

“You phone up the helpline going: 'What is happening?' and they go: 'We can't tell you anything'.

“It's just appalling really.”

The Dollar families applied under a scheme which sees people volunteering to open up their homes to families they do not yet know.

However, David decided to become proactive, having had a negative experience with an earlier Syrian refugee scheme where he patiently waited and “never heard a thing”.

He said: “We took the initiative, rather than waiting for people to randomly match you, we went out onto social media and I put out a number of posts telling people who I was, what I was doing, where we were and that we had host families willing and able to accommodate refugees if they were suitable to come to a semi-rural environment like Dollar is.”

This approach has meant that the three families arriving last week all know one another and come with a support network around them.

David added: “We think by the time we finished this process we are going to have about 30 families in Dollar and that will then create its own little Ukrainian sub-culture, if you like, and support network for each other, help with translation, shopping, childcare.”

When approached for comment by the Advertiser, the UK Government insisted that applications are being dealt with swiftly, with more families set to arrive in the coming weeks.

A spokesperson said: “Thanks to the generosity of the public who have offered their homes to Ukrainians fleeing the war and through our Ukraine Family Scheme, more than 86,000 visas have been granted with over 27,000 Ukrainians arriving safely in the UK.

“We are processing thousands of visas a day – this shows the changes we made to streamline the service are working and we’ll continue to build on this success so we can speed up the process even further.”