The Russian invasion of Ukraine has led to the fastest growing refugee crisis in Europe since World War Two. The UN says over 2.5 million people have now fled from Ukraine, and many more are set to follow as the conflict intensifies. Most people are going to neighbouring countries, but growing numbers will move to countries where they have family ties and connections across Europe.
We know communities want to play a direct part in welcoming Ukrainian refugees – and the government’s new scheme ‘Homes for Ukraine’ announced over the weekend is a positive step. Many Together With Refugees’ members are rising to the challenge and working with the government to help host and resettle refugees. They are raising funds to support their work and are helping out in countless other ways. They stand ready to make the ‘Homes for Ukraine’ scheme a success.
However, this shouldn’t detract from the government’s responsibility to people fleeing war in Ukraine. The new scheme will still mean people fleeing Ukraine will need to go through a complex visa application process. This is in stark contrast to the approach offered by other countries across Europe.
ALL people fleeing war and persecution should be given immediate protection and recognised as refugees, as the UK is obliged to do under the UN refugee convention. We shouldn’t be asking desperate people who have fled their homes under traumatic circumstances to apply for visas.
At the same time as the government is trying to catch up with the public mood on Ukraine, it is pressing ahead with its Nationality and Borders Bill. This bill would mean refugees arriving here from Ukraine, Afghanistan, Syria and other areas of conflict, other than by pre-agreed routes and arrangements, could be criminalised, held in reception centres or sent back to where they travelled from.
With the bill soon to return to the House of Commons, MPs must vote to end the proposal to punish refugees just because of how they arrive here, and regardless of what they are fleeing from. We’re also urging all MPs to agree to the Conservative-led Lords amendment for the UK to commit to resettle at least 10,000 refugees from around the world a year.