Ukraine refugees: UK Government is failing to live up to its promises – Scotsman comment

Following days of pressure over bureaucratic barriers to Ukrainian refugees seeking shelter in this country, the UK Government launched its “Homes for Ukraine” scheme on March 14 with Cabinet minister Michael Gove stressing there would be “no limit to the number of Ukrainians who can benefit from this scheme”.

Gove told MPs the number of Ukrainians arriving in the UK was “rapidly increasing” and would “grow even faster from tomorrow”, adding “the unfailingly compassionate British public wants to help further”.

For many concerned about the surprisingly cold response to the plight of people forced to flee their homes, this will have sounded like ministers had finally got the message.

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So it is deeply alarming to hear that the Glasgow-based refugee charity, Positive Action in Housing, has been been unable to get community sponsor visas for any of the 483 Ukrainians it has been working with recently.

Robina Qureshi, the charity’s director, said the forms that people, many still in war zones, are required to complete are “tortuous and confusing” and accused the UK Government of giving them “false hope”.

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“The stories are beyond heart-breaking,” she said. “The UK Government is doubly endangering the lives of Ukrainians trying to flee the war... first by forcing refugees to wait in war zones for visas and secondly by leaving them to turn in desperation to strangers on social media for sponsors.”

Labour leader Keir Starmer, while stressing the importance of showing that the UK was politically united against Russian aggression, said Boris Johnson’s government had got its response to the refugee crisis “completely wrong”, saying they had acted “too slowly” and are “too mean”.

A Ukrainian evacuee hugs a child at the train station in Przemysl, near the Polish-Ukrainian border (Picture: Angelos Tzortzinis/AFP via Getty Images)

Before Homes for Ukraine scheme was launched, the Spectator magazine summed up the UK’s response in a front-page cartoon showing several European countries holding up welcome signs to desperate Ukrainians, while the British representative held up a vast list of “criteria”.

If Homes for Ukraine is functioning anything like as badly as described, it seems that, despite the warm words, the same policy continues and it is hard to ignore the suspicion that its main purpose was to deal with bad PR.

The UK Government must now work urgently to improve the system to demonstrate it is a source of genuine, not false, hope for people in the most desperate circumstances.

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