Boris Johnson Avoids Committing To A Humanitarian Route For Ukrainian Refugees Coming To The UK
Boris Johnson has refused to commit to opening a third, more open, humanitarian route for Ukrainian refugees to come to the UK just hours after home secretary Priti Patel appeared to suggest the option.
The Prime Minister said Britain will have “a system that is very, very generous as the situation in in Ukraine deteriorates”, but defended maintaining immigration controls on those fleeing the Russian invasion.
In an interview with The Sun on Monday Patel said she was “investigating the legal options to create a humanitarian route” for refugees to come to the UK, which would be on top of two existing routes; one for family members of those already here, and a sponsorship scheme currently being set up.
But asked if the government was considering a third route, similar to a scheme in place in the EU, Johnson avoided committing to Patel's suggestion.
“What we won't do is have a system where people can come into the UK without any checks or any controls at all. I don't think that is the right approach," he said.
"But what we will do is have a system that is very, very generous as the situation in in Ukraine deteriorates.
“People are going to want to see this country open our arms to people fleeing persecution, fleeing wars, and I think people who have spare rooms who want to receive people coming from Ukraine or want us to have a system that enables them.”
A Downing Street spokesperson also failed to clarify whether or not a new route for Ukrainians was being worked up, pointing only to the measures that have already been announced, including the sponsorship route, which allows those without family ties to come to the UK.
“We've set out the two routes that we are putting in place," they said.
They added that the sponsorship route is already “a humanitarian route” which will allow people who don't have any family members in the UK to come here, and did not commit to a third, separate channel as the home secretary seemed to be outlining.
On Sunday, The Telegraph reported that according to official figures, only 50 visas had been granted under the Ukraine Family Scheme out of 5,535 online applications.
But the prime minister questioned the validity of the figures and said the UK was processing “thousands” of applications right now.
"The UK will be as generous as we can possibly be," he said.
Johnson was speaking at the start of a week of intense diplomatic efforts with foreign leaders to build a united front against Vladimir Putin.
He is hosting Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau and Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte today, with the trio visiting an RAF base to meet members of the UK Armed Forces.
Later they will hold separate bilaterals and a joint trilateral meeting ahead of a press conference in Downing Street, and tomorrow Johnson is welcoming the leaders of Poland, Slovakia, Hungary and the Czech Republic to Number 10 to discuss the Ukrainian refugee crisis.
The PM is expected to put more pressure on international counterparts to take further action to remove Russia from the Swift payment system, after announcing his six-point plan to tackle Vladimir Putin.
Writing in the New York Times, he said "it is not future historians but the people of Ukraine who will be our judge”.
His plan calls on world leaders to mobilise an "international humanitarian coalition”, support for Ukraine "in its efforts to provide for its own self-defence”, and to ratchet up economic pressure on Russia.
It also urged the international community to resist Russia's "creeping normalisation" of its actions in Ukraine, to pursue diplomatic resolutions to the war, but only with the full participation of Ukraine's legitimate government, and a wider campaign to “strengthen security and resilience" among Nato countries.
On Sunday the government announced the UK was injecting $100m into Ukraine’s economy to mitigate the financial pressures created by Russia’s illegal invasion.
The grant, which will be provided through the World Bank, could be used to support public sector salaries, allowing critical state functions to keep operating, as well as to support social safety nets and pensions for the Ukrainian people.
The UK will also train 22,000 soldiers, supply 2,000 anti-tank missiles, provide £100 million for economic reform and energy independence, and provide £120 million of humanitarian aid including £25 million of match funding to the Disasters Emergency Committee appeal.
“In the time since Russia’s illegal and brutal assault we have seen the world stand up tall in solidarity with the indomitable people of Ukraine," Johnson said.
“UK aid is already reaching those who need it most, delivering essential supplies and medical support.
“While only Putin can fully end the suffering in Ukraine, today’s new funding will continue to help those facing the deteriorating humanitarian situation.”
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