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Ukrainian refugees blocked from opening bank accounts in Britain

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 Refugees walk after fleeing the war from neighbouring Ukraine at the border crossing in Medyka, southeastern Poland - Sergei Grits/ AP
Refugees walk after fleeing the war from neighbouring Ukraine at the border crossing in Medyka, southeastern Poland - Sergei Grits/ AP

Ukrainian refugees have come up against onerous red tape when they try to open bank accounts in Britain.

Lloyds and Nationwide have come under fire for forcing refugees to jump through hoops such as obtaining a letter from a GP or the Home Office before they can open an account.

This is despite the Government’s advice to banks that proof of a permanent address is not a legal requirement.

It has asked lenders to relax normal procedures for the 72,000 Ukrainian refugees who have been granted British visas, pointing out that many are likely to have been forced to leave the country quickly without their personal and financial information to hand.

David Withers, 64, from West Sussex, said he was faced with bureaucracy when he tried to open an account at his local Lloyds branch for a refugee he is sponsoring.

“The person I am sponsoring plans to arrive today. The Government suggests that one of the priority actions on arrival is to open a bank account,” he said.

“But when I went to my branch of Lloyds to enquire about the procedure I was told that she required a Ukrainian passport and a letter from a GP confirming her address.

“When I asked how she would get a letter from a GP, they said she had to register and then ask the GP to write to the bank. When I expressed incredulity, the cashier checked with her manager and confirmed the policy.”

Nationwide was criticised this week for asking refugees to provide letters from the Home Office before allowing them to open accounts.

It has since updated its processes. Both the Government and the banking trade body UK Finance have said they are working to support access to banking for those who arrive without the standard paperwork.

A spokesman for Lloyds said the bank also accepted letters from charity workers, social workers and other officials in place of typical identity documents.

A Nationwide spokesman said the building society would now accept a letter from those hosting Ukrainian refugees as proof of address “if other options aren’t available”.

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