Home Office is ‘absolutely working on’ bringing Ukrainian refugees to UK

The Home Secretary said there will be ‘further changes’ in coming days after she came under intense criticism from MPs and refugee charities.

01 March 2022

Priti Patel has said the Government is “absolutely working on” the possibility of helping Ukrainian refugees come to the UK.

Hours earlier the Home Secretary ruled out a visa waiver for those fleeing the conflict with Russia over security concerns.

Speaking with ITV’s Peston on Monday night, she reiterated statements made earlier in the day about the priority of safeguarding “our public and our people” from “Putin’s Russia”.

She added that “further changes” would be announced in the “next few days” to help the people of Ukraine, but the current situation was “very fluid and dynamic”.

Ms Patel went on: “This is absolutely a phased approach around humanitarian support for the people of Ukraine. So this isn’t just about what we do on visas and our policy, this is much wider than that.

A Polish border guard assists refugees from Ukraine as they arrive to Poland at the Korczowa border crossing, Poland, Saturday, Feb. 26, 2022.
520,000 refugees from Ukraine have now fled to neighbouring countries, the UN says (Czarek Sokolowski/AP)

“So over the last weeks we’ve been focused on getting British nationals out of Ukraine, we’ve changed all sorts of things in terms of visas and prioritisation of cases. That’s the first aspect to this.

“Our policies are evolving – this is changing, this is a very fluid and dynamic situation. And in fact there will be further changes and announcements that we’ll be making in the next few days as well.”

The Home Secretary, who has come under intense political pressure from MPs across the Commons to do more to allow Ukrainian refugees to reach the UK, insisted she was taking action to open safe routes.

Ms Patel also faced criticism from refugee charities for falling short of the package of measures put forward by all 27 EU member countries.

According to UN refugee chief Filippo Grandi 520,000 refugees from Ukraine have so far fled to neighbouring countries and the number keeps rising.

The UN is planning for up to four million refugees in the coming weeks if the conflict doesn’t end, he said.

“We know that we are not even scratching the surface to meet the needs of Ukrainians,” he told an emergency Security Council meeting.

Earlier on Monday Ms Patel told MPs in the Commons she was following the “strongest security advice” as she rejected the call to scrap the need for visas.

“Over the weekend I have seen members of this House calling for full visa waivers for all Ukrainians,” Ms Patel said.

“Security and biometric checks are a fundamental part of our visa approval process worldwide and will continue, as they did for the evacuation of people from Afghanistan.

“That is vital to keep British citizens safe and to ensure that we are helping those in genuine need, particularly as Russian troops are now infiltrating Ukraine and merging into Ukrainian forces.

“Intelligence reports also state the presence of extremist groups and organisations who threaten the region but also our domestic homeland.

“We know all too well what Putin’s Russia is willing to do, even on our soil, as we saw through the Salisbury attack.”

The Home Secretary said the first phase of the “bespoke humanitarian route” being created for Ukrainians to enter the UK would allow around 100,000 people to come to “seek sanctuary”.

The Government has already announced measures allowing people who are settled in the UK to be able to bring their Ukrainian immediate family members to join them.

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