The UK has not set up a safe and legal route for Ukrainians to travel directly to the UK to seek refuge after the Russian invasion, it has emerged.
Britain has also stopped accepting visa applications from Ukrainians who could not or did not leave the country, and the only circumstance in which they could safely and legally come to the UK is if they have British relatives, according to The Independent.
This is despite countries neighbouring Ukraine, which include some of the poorest states in Europe, preparing to receive up to five million refugees because of the conflict with Russia – with Poland preparing for one million and Romania for 500,000, according to reports.
Only Ukrainians who have close British relatives can get UK visas – and not in Ukraine
Meanwhile, prime minister Boris Johnson said yesterday (Thursday) that 1,000 British troops were sent to “help the humanitarian exodus in neighbouring countries” and said the UK government was helping British nationals.
But the Home Office announced the UK visa application office in Kyiv, Ukraine’s capital, has been closed and all immigration services have been halted.
Ukrainians who do not have close British relatives can only get UK visas if they get to centres in Romania, Moldova, Poland and Hungary, whilst dependents of British citizens can only apply in Lviv, a city in the west of Ukraine.
Despite many countries offering resettlement options for Ukrainian refugees, Britain has not yet offered one, and the UK government reportedly expects many to remain in Eastern Europe.
Nationality and Borders Bill would make refugees including Ukrainians ‘illegal’
Meanwhile, the government is also pushing on with legislation that would punish those coming to the UK “without permission” with up to four year in prison – a legislation that would apply to refugees from any country, including Ukraine.
Through the Nationality and Borders Bill, which is considered by Parliament, asylum seekers who have safely resided in another country before coming to the UK would have their applications declared “inadmissible”.
A government spokesperson told The London Economic: “Our priority remains supporting British Nationals who are resident in Ukraine and their dependents who want to leave the country. We are working around the clock to process visa applications and are processing many applications in a matter of hours.
“The main Visa Application Centre in Kyiv has closed following the Russian Invasion but our centre in Lviv remains open for family members of British Nationals resident in Ukraine, and we have surged staff to the centres in nearby countries, including Poland, Moldova, Romania and Hungary.
“Ukrainian nationals are able to apply for visas from these centres and we have announced concessions for Ukrainians currently in the UK, to extend or switch their visa.
“We are working with other European countries to ensure that responses to any migration issues are practical and in the best interests of the Ukrainian people.”
Romanians and Moldovans join forces to help Ukrainian refugees
A Facebook group, United for Ukraine, has doubled in size since Thursday to over 47,000 members at the time of writing.
Romanians in the group are offering free accommodation, transport, food, clothes and medicines to families with children and animals some Ukrainians have not left behind.
People are sharing details of how many refugees they can shelter in their own homes across the country – from capital Bucharest in the south of Romania to Iasi in the north-east and Constanta, a city by the Black Sea.