The Government’s decision to relax visa requirements for Ukrainians to join family in the UK ‘falls short’ of what is needed and ‘did very little’ to reassure those fleeing war, according to the Refugee Council. ‘Compared to the EU’s decision to take in refugees for up to three years without having to apply for asylum, it looks mean-spirited and sends a message to desperate Ukrainians in search of safety that unless they have a family member in the UK, they are not welcome,’ commented the group’s chief exec Enver Solomon over the weekend.
In a quickly deleted tweet yesterday a Home Office minister said Ukrainians could apply for jobs picking fruit and veg if they want to come to the UK. Kevin Foster MP, responding to Labour MP Luke Pollard, wrote that there are a ‘number of routes’ for refugees from the war.
Boris Johnson addressed a Ukrainian congregation at the Cathedral of the Holy Family in London and pledged to do ‘everything it can to help economically, politically, diplomatically, militarily’. He later announced a further £40m of humanitarian aid.
‘The Government must show it cares and immediately establish a safe route, so all Ukrainian families, who through no fault of their own have been forced from their homes, can easily apply for a humanitarian visa to travel to the UK,’ commented Enver Solomon.
He added that as ‘the horrors of Ukraine unfold before our eyes’, it was important ‘not to divert our attention from the Government’s Borders Bill’ which would ‘flagrantly undermine our obligation to give all those who seek asylum a fair hearing on our soil’. ‘The Bill would treat men, women, and children, like those from Ukraine, embarking on terrifying journeys over land to flee war and persecution, as criminals on reaching our shores. We urge the Government to immediately rethink this cruel and harmful legislation,’ he said.
Under the proposals, only temporary protection would be extended to those who can demonstrate their right to refugee status but have entered illegally or came via a safe third country. Speaking to the FT, Baroness Philippa Stroud, a Conservative peer, criticised the bill. ‘Just as over 100,000 refugees are fleeing war-torn Ukraine, Britain is about to enact the nationality and borders bill that would deny them even the most basic of rights,’ she said. ‘It is a piece of law that means victims in the harrowing images we have all seen would be unable to call Britain a safe haven and would be held in perpetual sub-refugee status.’
The former head of the Centre for Social Justice think-tank has written a rebel amendment to overturn an existing ban on nearly all immigrants working while waiting for their asylum application to be processed.