Johnson under pressure to relax immigration rules for people from Ukraine

Group of Tory MPs had written to prime minister calling on government to do more for refugees

Boris Johnson is under mounting pressure to relax immigration rules to allow more people fleeing the conflict in Ukraine to come to Britain. Home secretary Priti Patel told MPs that immediate family members of Ukrainians already settled in the country would be able to to join them.

“Our new route will continue to keep pace with the developing situation on the ground and so far has already supported hundreds of British nationals and their families resident in Ukraine to leave,” she said.

“Where family members of British nationals do not meet the usual eligibility criteria, but pass security checks, UK visas and immigration will give them the permission to enter the UK outside the rules for 12 months and is prioritising all applications. Giving British nationals and any person settled in the UK the ability to bring over their immediate Ukrainian family members.”

Labour’s shadow home secretary complained that few details of the scheme appeared to be worked out, accusing Ms Patel of being poorly prepared.

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“The home secretary has just said she is announcing a bespoke humanitarian route but it’s extremely unclear from what she’s said what the details actually are or who it will apply to,” she said.

The Guardian reported on Monday that 37 Conservative MPs had written to the prime minister calling on the government to do more for refugees fleeing Ukraine. The letter from MPs in the moderate One Nation group said Britain should share responsibility with other European countries.

"It is clear that this is not another migration crisis; this is a crisis of war. This should not be business as usual – we need sincere and immediate support for the Ukrainian people. The United Kingdom cannot flag or fail, our message must be clear: Ukrainian victims of war seeking refuge are welcome," the letter said.

"We urge the UK government to provide as much support as possible to our European partners who are currently the first safe havens for Ukrainian refugees – namely, Poland, Moldova, Romania, Hungary and Slovakia. We also hope our ministers will seek a flexible and pragmatic approach to those Ukrainians wishing to seek temporary refuge in the UK until it is safe to return to their lives in their home country."

Criticism

Britain, which has also faced criticism for its failure to target dirty money from Russia in the City of London, is fast-tracking legislation to address the problem. The Economic Crime Bill will require foreign owners of property in Britain to declare and verify their identities.

In a call with other world leaders on Monday, Mr Johnson urged them to do more to help Ukraine with weapons and to apply pressure to Vladimir Putin.

“The prime minister stressed the need for countries to continue supporting the Ukrainian government, including with the provision of defensive weapons,” a Downing Street spokesman said.

“The prime minister welcomed the unity of message and action between countries in recent days in response to Russia’s invasion. He stressed the need to continue applying pressure on Putin’s regime, including on Swift, with sanctions and with trade restrictions.”

Denis Staunton

Denis Staunton

Denis Staunton is London Editor of The Irish Times