Should Britain Do More to Help Ukrainian Refugees?

obviously, we've all seen the horror of the Russian invasion of Ukraine in the last few days we've all seen the pictures of men and boys being separated from their families to defend Kiev and the indiscriminate shelling of civilian targets in Kharkiv as you'd expect ordinary Ukrainians have been fleeing westwards into the rest of Europe so in this blog we thought it'd be a good idea to look at what support our country is offering to those fleeing the violence in Ukraine so, it's first worth looking at the generic rules about asylum and refugees and whether people in Ukraine could use them and if not what other procedures could be used to be provided protection and to be given permission to remain in the UK in essence, there are three ways that someone from Ukraine could now come to the UK as a refugee via a family visa and via a visitor visa let's look at each of these and what the government has done firstly the UK is a signatory of the 1951 refugee convention meaning that the UK has a legal obligation to provide a place of asylum to those fleeing war or persecution now the thing with this is that usually to apply for asylum, you need to either be on the UK border or having already entered the UK at an asylum screening unit as an island this means that asylum seekers need to cross the channel which as we all know is pretty dangerous the second route that can be taken is using a family visa obviously, this is more restrictive than just applying as a refugee because only people with a connection to the UK are able to apply it's also worth mentioning that this visa isn't free the minimum fee is 1033 pounds and this figure can rise significantly depending on circumstance family visas also usually take around 12 weeks to be processed although the applicant can pay an additional 800 pounds for the super-priority service which takes one working day there is also a minimum earning requirement for partners the minimum earning requirement between the two of you is 18 600 pounds per year and this goes up if you have children and, in some situations, the applicant will also need to prove that they can speak English you get the point family visas are complicated and difficult to improve access for Ukrainians fleeing the Russian invasion the government has since made this free and widen the scope of who counts as a family connection for example whereas before adult children wouldn't be eligible for a family visa they now are as are siblings and grandparents the thing is though it still requires people to have some form of family connection in the UK it's also worth noting that at the time of writing despite hinting that they might be flexible about it the government has not officially waived the minimum earning or language requirements meaning that Ukrainians trying to enter the UK who have family or partners here may still be turned away just because they don't earn enough or they don't speak English all in all while family visas are now free Ukrainians still need a specific family connection in the UK and in some cases, will be subject to earning and language requirements for most Ukrainians therefore the only option will be the third option a standard visitor visa officially this route is for people visiting to see friends or as a tourist it costs 95 pounds for six months and it can take a few weeks to be processed worse still the route isn't intended for people fleeing war and this isn't actually, a valid reason applicants need to show where and how they'll get home after six months and obviously, this isn't really an option for most Ukrainians, it's easy to see why this isn't ideal in summary none of these routes described are ideal for Ukrainian refugees so what can the government do instead one way to make things easier for Ukrainians is to introduce a humanitarian visa which would allow people to travel to the UK and then claim asylum on arrival this way people would be able to come to the UK in a safe way instead of having to try and cross the channel and have their asylum application reviewed once they arrive unfortunately for Ukrainians, this looks unlikely the government has taken a rather strict approach to asylum and immigration just look at the nationality and borders bill and rejected the idea of humanitarian visas when they were first suggested back in November after 27 people died crossing the channel the government has though tried over the weekend to argue that they have been offering support to Ukrainians with john son saying that the UK wouldn't turn our backs in Ukraine's hour of need there were even some rather frosty exchanges between the government and the opposition over just this firstly David Lammy shadow foreign secretary tweeted that it is totally immoral that the home office is still applying normal visa restrictions to those fleeing Ukraine the home secretary Priti Patel replied to this claiming that it was appalling misinformation at a time of international crisis now to be fair there is a bit of nuance to this David Lammy is right that most of the normal visa restrictions apply such as earning requirements, the requirement to have a connection to the UK etc. but as we mentioned earlier family visas are now free for Ukrainians and the government has suggested that they may still accept applicants that don't meet the usual income and language requirements this argument between Patel and Lamy lasted only a couple more tweets and ended with Patel refusing to answer why she hadn't dropped the connection requirement in another rather bizarre exchange lab our mp Luke pollard raised the point about how people in Ukraine couldn't come to the UK if they didn't have a family link Kevin foster the minister for safe and legal migration at the home office replied stating that the family route existed and other people could apply for a visa through the seasonal worker scheme now again to be clear the seasonal worker scheme does exist but it doesn't really work for Ukrainian refugees it's mainly used by people who want to come and pick fruit vegetables costs 244 pounds can take up to three weeks and requires an offer for a job in the UK this was then a less than useful suggestion by foster so despite the home office's virtue signaling on Twitter it just doesn't seem like they've actually provided a huge amount of concessions to make it easier for those who want to leave Ukraine to actually do so for their part while lab our have called for the family visa criteria to be widened they've refused to back the open door policy adopted by the EU this stands in contrast to countries like Ireland who've recently announced that they've waived all visa requirements for Ukrainian nationals obviously this situation is evolving and the government may well relax visa requirements completely an hour after this blog goes out and if this does happen, we'll let you know in the description below.

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