Truckloads Of Ukrainian Aid Stuck In UK Due To Post-Brexit Paperwork Delays
Charity workers who are trying to send aid to people in war-torn Ukraine say their donations are spending days stuck at the Port of Dover due to complex post-Brexit checks.
Agnieszka Lokaj, who runs the Lewisham Polish Centre in south London, said on Monday her organisation had up to five tonnes of donations sat in London that is struggling to cross the UK border with the European Union due to confusion over paperwork.
Three lorries carrying donations collected by the Lewisham Polish Centre were stuck at Dover for two days last week, with drivers initially sent away by border officials. Lokaj said the confusion related to the fact that the exports were donations and not for re-sale, with officials asking for additional paperwork despite being told they are for humanitarian purposes, not commercial.
"The donations to us are growing, but we are not exporting," she told PoliticsHome.
"I don’t want to send drivers to the border where they will be stuck for several days. It doesn’t make sense to spend so much time and money dealing with the bureaucracy."
As a result of leaving the EU, goods sent to and from the bloc now face an array of checks which didn't take place prior to Brexit. Unlike Brussels, which introduced post-Brexit checks immediately in January 2021, the UK government delayed their implementation until this year.
The Lewisham Polish Centre and other charities are trying to send donations to people in Ukraine and neighbouring Poland, where over a million Ukrainians have fled since Vladimir Putin launched his devastating attack on the country. Items donated to Lokaj's group include medical items like crutches plus toiletries, towels, buggies, cosmetics, and dry food.
The Treasury gave Lokaj a phone number to call, but officials have so far failed to provide the information she needs to get donations across the border, she said. The centre and other charities are calling on the government to work with its EU allies to establish a humanitarian route for exporting aid to the region unhindered.
A spokesperson for HMRC said while it understands that desire of people in the UK to help those in Ukraine, government advice remains that the best way to do so is by donating money to the Disasters Emergency Committee or other trusted charities.
Anyone seeking advice on sending aid to the region "can contact the free-to-use Export Support Service (ESS) or ESS helpline 0300 303 8955 which can be used by individuals, businesses or charities," they said.
"The UK has committed a £120 million humanitarian aid package for Ukraine to help aid agencies respond to the deteriorating situation, creating a lifeline for Ukrainians with access to basic necessities and medical supplies," the spokesperson continued.
"Our humanitarian aid takes the UK’s overall aid support for Ukraine during the current crisis to £220 million, after a £100 million economic package for Ukraine was announced earlier this month".
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