Wed, 29 March 2023

Newsletter sign-up

Subscribe now
The House Live All
Home affairs
Home affairs
Home affairs
Home affairs
Press releases

Priti Patel Faces Criticism "From Top To Bottom" Over "Mess" Of Ukrainian Refugee Policy

Priti Patel Faces Criticism 'From Top To Bottom' Over 'Mess' Of Ukrainian Refugee Policy
3 min read

The Home Office is coming under increasing pressure to get a grip of its Ukrainian refugee policy after another day of confusion and pleas to government to expand its help to those fleeing their war-torn country.

Home secretary Priti Patel is under particular pressure to halt the crisis, with one senior source saying there is concern in the government "from top to bottom" that the UK response to Vladimir Putin's attack on Ukraine is being let down by the Home Office's handling of the refugee crisis.

They added that Patel was "the odd one out" within the Cabinet when it comes to how open the UK's scheme for Ukrainian refugees should be. The Home Secretary has led the charge on severely tightening the country's immigration rules since the UK left the European Union.  

This morning The Times reported that Patel "squirmed and hated it" when she was was grilled by other Cabinet ministers about the Home Office's response to the unfolding refugee crisis in a meeting on Tuesday.

"It's a mess," a senior Home Office source told PoliticsHome on Wednesday when asked about the mood in the department shortly after it emerged that a "pop-up" refugee processing centre in Lille, France would not accept bookings and would offer only limited walk-in appointments to the most vulnerable.

Most Ukrainians looking to seek refuge in the UK have been told to head for the Home Office's application centres in Paris and Brussels, not Lille, and that the centre being established in Lille would focus only on Ukrainians referred there by Border Force officials.

It had been hoped that the new processing centre en route to Calais would significantly increase the number of visa applications from fleeing Ukrainians that the Home Office could handle, and speed up the number of people having their applications accepted by the UK.

Under the current rules, which the government is under considerable pressure to loosen, Ukrainians with relatives in the UK can apply for refuge, while those who do not have family ties here can only apply for a visa if they are sponsored by an individual, business, charity, or organisation.

In today's Prime Minister's Questions, Boris Johnson said "almost a thousand" visa applications from Ukrainians had been accepted and that the number would "rise very sharply" to eventually reach the hundreds of thousands. 

However, that number is a small portion of the 22,000 Ukrainians who according to Vadym Prystaiko, the Ukrainian ambassador to the UK, had submitted visa applications as of this morning.

Prystaiko prompted more disbelief in Westminster when he said his wife struggled to secure a visa to come to Britain prior to Russia invading Ukraine.

Prystaiko told MPs on the Foreign Affairs Select Committee that there were "always bureaucratic hassles" for Ukrainians trying to secure UK visas before Vladimir Putin's war and that while he understood the UK's “strict immigraition policies", many other European nations also had such levels and their visa processes worked “beautifully”.

The ambassador joined calls for the government to match its EU allies by waiving visa requirements for Ukrainians wanting to seek sanctuary in the UK.

Johnson once again rejected this call when speaking in the House of Commons, however, claiming that doing so would pose a security risk and that some checks needed to take place. The Prime Minister insisted that the UK was "out in front" in providing huminatrian support to Ukrainians. 

Julian Smith, the former Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, today joined a chorus of Conservative MPs pushing the government to make the refugee scheme more generous.

During PMQs he told the Prime Minister: "Please can I urge him to look again at resetting our policy and taking control of a more humane approach to those women and men fleeing from Ukraine".

PoliticsHome Newsletters

PoliticsHome provides the most comprehensive coverage of UK politics anywhere on the web, offering high quality original reporting and analysis: Subscribe

Read the most recent article written by Adam Payne - Renewed Hope For Northern Ireland Government Return After May Elections