Sponsorship Scheme For Ukrainian Refugees Needed “In Hours” Not Weeks, Says Top Tory
Former Cabinet minister Robert Buckland has called on government to publish details of the sponsorship scheme for Ukrainian refugees in “hours” and is “deeply impatient” for it to get up and running.
More than 10 days ago the government announced it would create a system for Ukrainian refugees without existing links to the UK to apply for a visa, but has not confirmed details of how the scheme will work, or when people can apply for it.
It will require refugees fleeing war-torn Ukraine to be sponsored by a communities, private individuals, or local authorities, and will operated by Michael Gove’s Levelling Up department, and Boris Johnson told Prime Minister’s Questions more would be revealed “in the coming days”.
Speaking to PoliticsHome podcast, The Rundown, Buckland said he “shares that frustration” of MP colleagues and the public that the scheme is yet to be outlined.
“I'm desperate to get on with this,” he said.
“I still haven't yet got a firm date as to when that announcement is going to be made, frankly, we need it in days, if not hours, so that we can start this process,” he said.
“Whilst I'm a great believer in parliamentary protocol, if [Gove] was able to announce it as soon as the weekend then great, that gives us even more time to get this system up and running.”
Buckland also warned against the sponsorship visa route being “an overly bureaucratic, stultifyingly slow, ‘computer says no’ type of approach”, which will put people off wanting to help.
The former-justice secretary, who was a minister under David Cameron, Theresa May and Boris Johnson, said he has been inundated with messages from from his constituents in Swindon who are eager to help support Ukrainian refugees coming to the UK.
He said the “generosity of spirit that I'm seeing is overwhelming”.
But he believed it is now “vital that government leans into this, epitomises that generosity of spirit and make sure that we are doing every thing we can to create a system which is efficient and speedy”.
The senior MP also spoke to PoliticsHome about what he sees as the UK’s “obligation” to take in more people fleeing Vladimir Putin’s troops after days of shelling and airstrikes targeting civilians.
While it is inevitable that many Ukrainians will want to stay as close to their country as possible, with the number of refugees estimated at around 2.5 million and rising, Buckland insisted that “Britain has to play a role".
“This isn't a sort of luxury choice for us, I think it's an obligation. Not just moral, but a logistical obligation to help our friends and neighbours in Europe," he insisted.
“I don't put it like shouldering a burden, this is an obligation that we should all share as fellow human beings to want to help people in genuine need.
“That's precisely what I want to see happen in our country.”
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