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UNA-UK calls on UK to do more to support refugees

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Earlier today the Home Secretary, Priti Patel, announced that Ukrainians with passports will no longer need to go to a visa application centre (VAC) to complete paperwork before travelling to the UK.

This change comes after widespread calls for the Home Secretary to address the UK’s shamefully inadequate response to the growing humanitarian crisis as a result of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. 

UNA-UK welcomes any move towards reducing bureaucratic impediments to those seeking safety in the UK. But the change announced today does not go far enough in addressing the failure of the current system as it only applies to the Ukraine Family Scheme visa route - thereby excluding thousands of Ukrainians seeking sanctuary. Meanwhile the Ukrainian Humanitarian Route - announced nearly two weeks ago and which would allow applications from those without familial ties in the UK - remains vague and unimplemented. 

Around 2 million people have fled the conflict in Ukraine so far, and yet the UK has only accepted a small fraction of the thousands who have applied for visas. Hundreds of thousands of those fleeing are children, many of whom are unaccompanied or have been separated from their family members and are at a heightened risk of violence, abuse, and exploitation.

UNA-UK is calling for the government to uphold its humanitarian commitments and its international obligations under the Geneva convention. We call on the UK to create visa-free pathways for those seeking protection and immediately establish routes of sanctuary for unaccompanied children. 

While the UK scrambles to establish mechanisms to accept those fleeing the conflict in Ukraine, there remains a bill passing through parliament - the Nationality and Borders Bill - that has been dubbed by some as the “Anti Refugee Bill”. If passed it would close the door to many who arrive in the UK in urgent need of protection.  On Ukraine, other European countries have been faster to react, and more broadly, the UK already lags significantly behind many of its European neighbours in terms of absolute number of people to whom it gave protection, including resettled refugees for many years.

How can you help?

We are asking our supporters to write to their MP, asking them to call on the government to:

  1. Support the creation of visa-free pathways for those seeking protection
  2. Immediately establish routes of sanctuary for unaccompanied and separated children fleeing from Ukraine, and provide resources for their immediate identification and registration

You can click here to find out who your local MP is and how to get in contact. 

As template letters can sometimes be overlooked by MP offices, we encourage our supporters to write to their MPs in their own words. We have included some key lines that you are welcome to tailor to your own correspondence:

  • I want to see the government do more to uphold its humanitarian commitments and its international obligations under the Geneva convention
  • We should not be imposing bureaucratic restrictions and visa requirements to people fleeing a conflict, please call on the government to create visa-free pathways to help those in need. 
  • The reports from UNHCR of children separated from their families deeply concern me, our government should be providing sanctuary and resources to ensure they are protected and can be safely reunited. 

Read more

  • Click here to see UNA-UK's latest resources on Ukraine, and ways that you can help.

Photo: Refugees from Ukraine arrive in Poland at the Medyka border crossing.  © UNHCR/Valerio Muscella