Thank you for getting in touch about the current refugee crisis resulting from Russia’s war against Ukraine. The invasion of the peaceful and unthreatening Ukraine by Vladimir Putin’s Russian forces has produced death and destruction across the country and a wave of refugees seeking safety in nearby European countries.
It is entirely understandable that these people, many who have left with only what they could carry, seek to remain close to the Ukrainian border in the hope that they will soon be able to return to their homes, families and communities. Consequently, the UN says that so far Poland has taken in 1,204,000 refugees, Hungary 191,000, Slovakia 141,000, Moldova 83,000, Romania 82,000 and Belarus 453 with 99,300 going to Russia. More than 210,000 people are understood to have moved on from these countries to others in Europe.
Just as the international community showed solidarity in imposing crippling sanctions on the Russian economy, so we must stand together in dealing with the refugee crisis. I have, and will continue to, make my views clear to the British government on the subject as I have on national and international media.
The situation in the United Kingdom is as follows:
On 27 February, the Home Office announced "temporary visa concessions", allowing the immediate family members of British nationals who usually live in Ukraine to apply for a free family visa to come to the UK.
- a spouse or civil partner
- an unmarried partner (they must have been living together in a relationship for at least two years)
- a parent if the individual living in Ukraine is under the age of 18
- a child under the age of 18
- an adult relative they provide care for who they live with due to a medical condition
On 28 February, the Home Secretary, Priti Patel, announced that the scheme would also apply to the immediate family members of Ukrainians already settled in the UK (there are an estimated 37,500).
On 1 March, she widened the scheme further to cover:
- adult children
- their immediate family members
Some MPs have asked for UK Visa rules to be lifted altogether for all Ukrainians. I have considerable sympathy with those who want to see the system move more quickly, not only to help refugees themselves but to ease the pressure on our European allies who have been suffering from the rapid influx of large numbers of Ukrainians displaced by Putin’s war.
This has, however, to be counterbalanced by what the Home Secretary has described as the need to “keep British citizens safe, particularly as Russian troops are now infiltrating Ukraine and merging into Ukrainian forces. Intelligence sources also state the presence of extremist groups and organisations who threaten the region but also our domestic homeland."
Many have asked what they can do personally to help in the refugee crisis. The best way is to support the Ukraine humanitarian appeal through the DEC (Disasters Emergency Committee) comprising 15 of the country’s biggest charities who come together to deal with international humanitarian crises. Operating through them provides greater efficiency and prevents the fragmentation of the help being offered through the generosity of the British people.