The visa programme for Ukrainian refugees to enter the UK has suffered further setbacks and delays. With thousands waiting longer to gain safety from the conflict, attention turns to the Home Secretary.
The ongoing conflict in Ukraine has shaken up the international community and shifted the eyes of the world to the humanitarian crisis unfolding there. Despite the efforts of the Ukrainian army and ordinary citizens, the Kremlin has continued bombardments of Ukraine’s towns and cities. The conflict has left millions of Ukrainians citizens with no choice but to flee their homes and seek refuge in the safer countries of Europe, including the UK. Following the invasion, more than 10 million people are estimated to have fled the nation’s borders, alongside 4.3 million from neighbouring countries.
In response, the international community has stepped up efforts to alleviate the crisis for the millions of people fleeing. The UN and other organisations have provided humanitarian assistance where possible, including aid, food, shelter. The UK also responded with a visa programme for Ukrainian refugees and the ‘Homes for Ukraine Scheme’ – subsidising families to take in refugees.
However, the new visa programme issued by the Home Office has been criticised for failing to take in the numbers promised. According to latest figures, 12,000 refugees have successfully reached the UK – just over a quarter of the Ukrainians granted visas. The number of refugees entering UK borders suggests there has been no significant increase in the speed of issuing visas or for allowing those with visas to enter the country, despite assurances that the process had been ‘streamlined’.
Priti Patel, the Home Secretary, has herself come under criticism for failing to deliver on her promise to speed up the number of refugees coming into the country. She has, alongside the refugees minister Lord Harrington, apologised for the delays. The UK’s efforts in taking in refugees has been dwarfed by other European nations such as Germany, who have accepted 300,000 Ukrainians. Olaf Scholz, Chancellor of Germany, has stated other countries need to step up the efforts in taking refugees.
Ms Patel stated in response:
“I’ll be very candid, it has taken time. Any new scheme takes time, any new visa system takes time…I apologise, with frustration, myself.”
The recent Russian retreat from northern Ukraine may save the Government’s blushes as some refugees opt to return to some parts of Ukraine. Never the less, the UK has noticeably failed to step up along side our European partners.
Apart from the gross moral failure to help Ukrainians in their hour of need, the UK’s reluctance to play their part is further eroding any claim to the mantle of ‘global Britain’. Whether the Government wants to acknowledge it or not Brexit and subsequent behaviour during the negotiations has shaken our relationships with our most important powers. Now is not the time to be a wobbly ally.
Luckily the actions of President Biden have shown the way. After the turmoil of the Trump years he has deftly rebuilt relations with his allies and by sharing intelligence and respecting the politics of his European partners has forged a remarkably solid coalition during this crisis.
With steadier hands on the tiller the UK can quickly rebuild our reputation and be taken seriously by our allies and our foes alike.
Photo credit: Mattes