Following Immigration Minister Kevin Foster’s announcement that Britain has awarded 500 visas to individuals fleeing the Russian invasion, the British government came under fire from all sides of parliament on Tuesday.
Unlike its European Union neighbours, the United Kingdom compels people seeking asylum from the conflict in Ukraine to arrive with a valid visa. Since the Russian invasion, it has declared two new visa routes, although only one of them is currently operating.
“The (family visa) system went live last Friday, and we’ve already had over 10,000 applications,” Foster told parliament on Tuesday. “Of those, over 500 visas have been given, with more being issued as we speak.”
The number of refugees fleeing Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has risen to 2 million, according to the United Nations’ refugee agency UNHCR.
“This is a disgrace,” Alec Shelbrooke, a Conservative Party politician, shouted during a tense emergency debate, one of several passionate remarks from all sides.
“We don’t want to stand here and listen to plans and processes; we want dates, we want action, and the Home Office needs to respond significantly more swiftly than it is,” he said.
For up to three years, the EU has agreed to provide refugees temporary residency, giving them access to employment, social welfare, and housing. Since removing visa requirements, Ireland has taken in over 2,000 Ukrainian refugees.
“This country hasn’t even gone close to achieving it. What’s to stop you? “Conservative congressman Andrew Murrison cited the Irish data in his remarks.
Foster backed the government’s demand for security checks, citing a nerve toxin assault in Salisbury, England, in 2018. The British government attributes this to three Russian military intelligence officials who entered the country under false pretences as tourists.
“Unfortunately, we are already witnessing people arriving in Calais with forged Ukrainian credentials. With tragedies like Salisbury still fresh in our memories, the administration would not take any chances with the country’s and people’s security “he stated
After a diplomatic confrontation with France on Sunday, when Paris stated refugees without visas were being turned away, the administration has struggled to clarify what assistance it is providing to migrants arriving in the French port of Calais.
Britain denied the charge, stating it had personnel stationed in Calais and had established a visa application centre en way to the port. Later, it was revealed that the centre was in Lille, about 70 miles away, and that it had not yet opened.
“It’s critical that we don’t create a bottleneck in locations like Calais, where there are deadly people smugglers,” Foster said, “but we also need to ensure a fluid flow of people through the system from all across Europe.”
“In a short period of time, we’ve achieved great progress.”