A BBC journalist has presented a six-minute round-up of the Ukrainian refugee crisis and how the UK responded, linking it to Brexit.
Ros Atkins highlighted the UK itself warned as early as 20th February of what Russia might do, with prime minister Boris Johnson saying at the time that a Ukraine invasion could be “the biggest war in Europe since 1945”.
Atkins said that Johnson promised four days later, when Russia did invade and thousands fled their homes, that the UK is ‘with them’ and is ‘on their side’.
But Atkins said “for some Ukrainians being on their side means letting them come to the UK.”
UK versus Europe response
He then cited figures from the United Nations, showing over two million refugees fled Ukraine, and most of them went to neighbouring countries: Poland, Romania, Moldova, Hungary and Slovakia.
Atkins pointed out some are travelling to Western Europe – albeit much fewer – and that the EU is now allowing Ukrainians to stay in the bloc for three years, after extending their 90-day visa-free rights in the light of the war.
But Johnson confirmed the UK would not follow a similar paperless approach, shattering hopes that Ukrainians could flee without being required to go through a visa application process by Britain.
“By Tuesday, 2,200 Ukrainians have arrived in Ireland, in France it was 2,500 and in Germany, 30,000. The UK is not in the EU so has its own approach, the Ukraine Family Scheme visa, based around having a relative in the UK,” Atkins said.
He added: “As of Tuesday, the UK had issued 300 visas, but there were said to be over 17,700 applications started. And while those are being processed, hundreds of refugees have been stuck in Calais, on the north coast of France.
“On Saturday, France criticised this approach, its interior minister said 150 Ukrainians had arrived at the port and been turned back.”
What the BBC found in Patel’s Calais centre
Atkins cited Home Secretary Priti Patel claiming on Sunday that it is “wrong” to say the UK is turning people back in Calais because the Home Office has “staff” there.
But the following day, BBC’s Mark Easton went to Calais and said there were three officials, a box of ready-salted crisps and some kitkats.
There was also a notice board announcing “no visas in Calais”, prompting Easton to reveal the UK government is asking Ukrainians to call a UK number or go to a website and then travel to Paris or Brussels to get the necessary documents which could allow them to come to the UK, if successful.
“Now of course, making international calls, getting online or getting to Brussels or Paris from Calais may be easier said than done if you’ve just arrived from a war zone,” Atkins highlighted.
He then moved to point out Tory MP Tracy Crouch’s announcement that there are no more appointments at a UK refugee centre in Poland until the end of April – and at Boris Johnson claiming “no country in Europe has done more to settle vulnerable people, since 2015, than the UK”.
He concluded with why the current attitude displayed by the UK government towards Ukrainian refugees is related to Brexit: