The government has come under fire for its “unacceptable” efforts to help Ukrainian refugees, which many say will allow only a “very limited” number of those fleeing Russia’s invasion to come to the UK.
It comes as the Home Office announced family members of British nationals usually living in Ukraine will have to go through a visa application to come to Britain, despite the turmoil in their homeland.
And the government said the relevant British national family member must be either a spouse or civil partner, a parent, child or carer.
This prompted Bylines Times political editor Adam Bienkov to suggest that the government is excluding adult children, parents of adults, and brothers and sisters among many the family members fleeing conflict.
Key family members excluded for many
And author Edwin Hayward said the section only applies to Ukrainians who have British family members in Ukraine.
“As yet, there has been no change for Ukrainians who have British or Ukrainian (or other nationality) family members in the UK,” he added.
Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper said: “Updated guidance just published by Home Office shows even this first step does NOT apply to wider family. What are they thinking? What about people struggling to get elderly parents here, or Ukrainians who can’t come stay with sister or brother here?
“Shameful of Govt to refuse to even help other relatives in a terrible European war like this. Home Office must immediately extend this to wider family members and then they must set out a broader sanctuary route so UK also does its bit to help other Ukrainians too.”
First Minister of Scotland Nicola Sturgeon shared the Home Office guidance, expressing her profound disagreement with the offer: “Restricting to family members too limited and defining ‘family member’ so narrowly compounds this.
“UK Home Office must lift visa requirement for all Ukrainians seeking entry to UK as other countries doing. Anything less is unacceptable.”
‘Note the language’ of Boris Johnson’s offer, migrants rights campaigner says
Meanwhile, a No 10 press release also sparked backlash after announcing prime minister Boris Johnson “confirmed that any person settled in the UK will be able to bring their Ukrainian immediate family members to join them here.”
But migrant rights campaigner Alexandra Bulat urged people to “note the language”.
“’Any person settled in the UK’… ‘immediate family’. I am looking forward to see the detail. Also, safe routes to claim asylum should be for all,” she said.
One Twitter user said “immediate family” means children under 18 and spouses. “Sometimes parents, but not always”, the person said, adding: “Very few will benefit. Also doesn’t clarify if they will still need to apply for a visa”.
EU ‘has opened up options for Ukrainian citizens’
International refugee law specialist Daniel Sohege highlighted that, by contrast to the UK’s response to the humanitarian crisis, “the EU has opened options for Ukrainian citizens”.
It comes as the European Union announced that Ukrainian refugees are welcome into member countries for three years without applying for asylum.
Countries in the EU have gone even further than the bloc-wide announcement. Slovakia announced Ukrainians coming to the country will get a “temporary status with free healthcare and legal work possibility.”
“For Ukrainians, public transport is free of charge. There is food and beverages at the border,” government official Livia Vasakova said.