Patel clashes with Labour over visas for people fleeing Ukraine

Labour said it was ‘immoral’ that normal rules still apply, but the Home Secretary accused the opposition of ‘misinformation’.

26 February 2022

A furious war of words has erupted between the Government and Labour over Britain’s treatment of  people fleeing the fighting in Ukraine.

Labour said the Government’s refusal to relax visa restrictions for those seeking sanctuary in the UK was “immoral” at a time when the country was under fire.

But Home Secretary Priti Patel hit back, accusing the opposition of “appalling misinformation” and saying the claims were “simply untrue”.

Speaking during a visit to Birmingham, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer urged ministers to adopt a “humanitarian approach” to people “fleeing for their lives”.

“We must help Ukrainian people looking for safety. The Government has got this one wrong. They are applying the same rules as they had before,” he said.

Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper tweeted: “Ukraine is under fire. People are fleeing war. Yet Home Office still applies normal visa restrictions including salaries, language, close relatives.

“This isn’t solidarity with Ukraine, it’s immoral.”

In response to Labour’s claims, Ms Patel tweeted: “Appalling misinformation at a time of international crisis. This is simply untrue.”

A Government spokesman said the priority was supporting British nationals and their dependents who are resident in Ukraine who wanted to get out.

“We are working around the clock to process visa applications and are processing many applications in a matter of hours,” the spokesman said.

Application fees had been temporarily waived for those eligible for entry by the family route while those who did not meet the requirements were being allowed entry for 12 months.

While the main UK visa application centre in Kyiv has been closed, the one in Lviv remained open for family members of British nationals in Ukraine.

Staff had been “surged” to the centres in nearby countries, including Poland, Moldova, Romania and Hungary, to help those who made it across the border.

“Ukrainian nationals are able to apply for visas from these centres and we have announced concessions for Ukrainians currently in the UK, to extend or switch their visa,” the spokeswoman said.

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