Ukraine. Government still forcing refugees to ‘skip steps’ to flee war and come to UK, says MP Farry

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The government is still asking Ukrainian refugees to ‘jump hurdles’ to enter the UK, despite new Home Secretary proposals to ‘streamline’ the visa system, an Alliance MP has said.

nd the SDLP also accused Priti Patel of ‘nothing more than an attempt to save face’ after announcing in the Commons that fugitive Ukrainians with passports will no longer need to go to an application center visa to undergo a biometric check before coming to the UK.

“Instead, once their application has been reviewed and the appropriate checks have been carried out, they will receive direct notification that they are eligible for the scheme and can come to the UK,” said the minister for the Interior to the deputies.

“In short, Ukrainians with passports will be able to get permission to come here fully online wherever they are and will be able to give their biometrics once in Britain. This means that visa application centers across Europe will be able to focus their efforts on helping Ukrainians without passports.

The UK’s approach to resettling refugees fleeing Ukraine has been widely criticised. The UK currently only admits people whose family already lives in the UK; however, a second scheme which will place refugees with a sponsoring family or NGO – whether or not they have family in the UK – is due to launch in the coming days. Alliance Party MP Stephen Farry said in-person dates should never have been introduced for Ukrainian refugees in the first place. “Even with this step, it is absurd to ask those fleeing to jump through hoops and wait to reach safety,” he said.

“Visas are still required and only Ukrainian nationals with immediate family members in the UK are eligible to apply. There are a lot of Ukrainians who don’t have family ties in the UK, but want to come here. The Minister of the Interior must waive visas for all those fleeing the invasion. SDLP leader Colum Eastwood said: ‘Despite criticism of the UK Government’s humanitarian approach to the invasion of Ukraine, in stark contrast to its posture and pursuit of relevance on the world stage, this new system will still require people whose lives have been turned downside to go through a complicated online process to access help.

“This latest move by Home Secretary Priti Patel is nothing more than an attempt to save face. I reiterate my call on the UK government to follow the South and the EU and allow Ukrainian refugees to enter the country without visa checks. Any attempt to disguise this in relation to security concerns is complete nonsense.”

His Ulster Unionist counterpart, Lord Rogan, hailed the “outpouring of goodwill and kindness” from across the UK for the people of Ukraine, adding that “as always, the brave people of Northern Ireland have opened the way”. He suggested that “a similarly positive attitude should be taken by British government ministers regarding the extension of visas for Ukrainian refugees so that they can enter the UK safely”.

Patrick Corrigan, NI program director at Amnesty International, said Ms Patel’s new policy “is simply not good enough given the scale and urgency of the situation”. He added: ‘This new Home Office scheme is still making it incredibly difficult for Ukrainian refugees to enter the UK and is still full of red tape.

“People who have been forced to run for their lives are asked to provide birth certificates, proof of relationships and residency, and any documents translated into English.

“There is a simple solution to this and that is for the UK government to match other European countries like Ireland in waiving visa requirements immediately. This would allow people fleeing a war zone to come to the UK United, as they are entitled to do under the UN Refugee Convention to which the UK is a signatory.

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