Ukrainian refugees will be able to apply for UK visas in Lille – Truss

Foreign Secretary Liz Truss told MPs about the ‘pop-up’ site in the city in northern France after the Government’s resettlement policy was criticised.

08 March 2022

Ukrainian refugees will be able to apply for UK visas at another processing centre being set up in Lille, according to the Foreign Secretary.

Liz Truss told MPs about the “pop-up” site in the city in northern France after the Government’s resettlement policy for fleeing war-torn Ukraine was branded “cruel and chaotic”.

In the House of Commons on Tuesday, Labour MP Diane Abbott (Hackney North and Stoke Newington) asked: “Will the Foreign Secretary speak to her colleague the Home Secretary about the cruel and chaotic way that desperate Ukrainian refugees are being treated by her department?

“It cannot be right that there is no visa application centre in Calais and Ukrainian refugees who travel thousands of miles to Calais are being redirected to either Paris or Brussels. Does the Foreign Secretary agree that this brings the UK into disrepute?”

Ms Truss replied: “The Home Office have placed staff in Poland and Hungary to help people, they have also … the Home Secretary has announced a new pop-up application site in Lille.

“I can tell her that the Home Office has set up a surgery for MPs in Portcullis House which I am sure she will be very welcome to take any cases she has to.”

It comes after Home Secretary Priti Patel told MPs on Monday: “I can confirm that we have set up a bespoke VAC en route to Calais but away from the port because we have to prevent that surge taking place.”

But she later told the Commons the Government is still “setting up” the visa application centre (VAC), adding that there was a need to avoid creating “choke points” in Calais and instead “encourage a smooth flow of people”, as concerns were raised over Ukrainians being turned away from the French port city.

A Downing Street spokesman said the centre was “en route to Calais” and “the Home Office are working quickly to set it up and we expect it to be set up in the coming days”.

Asked why it was not being set up in Calais, where Ukrainians had already gathered, the spokesman said: “We obviously want to make sure that we can provide the appropriate level of support that those who are seeking to enter the UK require.

“Obviously the Home Office and Border Force are best placed to make a call on where that would be best based to help support those people who are making their way through France.”

Asked what Ukrainians already in Calais should do, the spokesman said the new application centre would be set up shortly, “there is a helpline in place” and “facilities and staff in neighbouring countries to Ukraine”.

Home Office minister Kevin Foster told MPs there are “issues with providing specific application points at the port, but we are looking at how we can do it and we expect that to be set up within the next 24 hours”.

Speaking in the Commons, he added: “We are already seeing people presenting at Calais with false documents claiming to be Ukrainian” and the Government “will not take chances with the security of this country and our people”.

Responding to an urgent question by Conservative MP Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown (The Cotswolds) on how the Home Office can speed up the urgent refugee applications coming from those leaving Ukraine, Mr Foster said “a crucial part of the application process is providing biometrics so we can be sure applications are who they say they are”.

He also told the Commons more than 500 visas had now been issued under the Ukraine Family Scheme, which launched on Friday, and more than 10,000 applications have been submitted.

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