By Peter McLaren-Kennedy • 28 February 2022 • 12:29
Criticism has been levelled at the government for its changes to the Visa rules for Ukrainians fleeing the war, being described by some as “shameful and unacceptable.”
The changes announced by Prime Minister Boris Johnson allow immediate family of British nationals to come to the UK, which critics say do not go far enough. It is understood that the will be of no help to most people’s parents, siblings and adult children.
Johnson and his cabinet have come under intense pressure for not relaxing the visa requirements given the situation in the Ukraine, however as usual Downing Street have defended the measures saying they will: “benefit many thousands of people who at this moment are making desperate choices about their future.”
The prime minister said: ‘In the last days the world has witnessed awe-inspiring displays of bravery and heroism from the Ukrainian people in response to those who seek to obliterate their freedom by force.
‘We are providing all the economic and military support we can to help those Ukrainians risking everything to protect their country.’
The announcement followed a call between Mr Johnson and Volodymyr Zelenskyy earlier on Sunday, in which the Ukrainian president said the need for humanitarian assistance was critical. Mr Johnson is also understood to have net with Ukrainian leader in London, where he was asked if the UK was going to make it easier for Ukrainian refugees to move here to which he replied: “We want to be as generous as we possibly can, and certainly we want people who have relatives in Ukraine to be able to bring them over as fast as possible.
“We want to make sure that we have routes for people fleeing disaster, war, persecution in Ukraine to come here and we’re setting aside more to help with the humanitarian crisis in the countries bordering Ukraine, putting another £40 million for medical supplies and immediate help.”
When pressed on what exactly he meant by very generous and how many people would be accepted, Mr Johnson once again backtracked on taking refugees saying: “Well, we will have a system that lets people come when they’re in fear of persecution when they need to… for family reunion or other purposes.”
Labour’s Yvette Cooper, the Shadow Home Secretary described the changes as a “welcome first step”, later issuing a statement that said: “This is a welcome first step forward and should have happened days ago as too many desperate family members have been struggling and delays have been deeply damaging.
“We hope this announcement includes wider family as well as just the closest relatives and it is vital that we see those details as soon as possible.”
But, after the Home Office published its updated guidance on the changes, Ms Cooper asked: “What were they thinking?”
Tweeting her reaction, Ms Cooper said: “Updated guidance just published by Home Office shows even this first step does NOT apply to wider family.
“What are they thinking? What about people struggling to get elderly parents here, or Ukrainians who can’t come stay with sister or brother here?
“Shameful of Govt to refuse to even help other relatives in a terrible European war like this. Home Office must immediately extend this to wider family members and then they must set out a broader sanctuary route so UK also does its bit to help other Ukrainians too.”
The government’s new visa rules for Ukrainians have also been criticised by Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, who has called on the government to scrap visa all requirements for all Ukrainian citizens seeking refuge in the UK.
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Originally from South Africa, Peter is based on the Costa Blanca and is a web reporter for the Euro Weekly News covering international and Spanish national news.
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