Ukraine-Russia war: UK's insistence that refugees must get a visa is inhumane and immoral – Scotsman comment

It is one thing for the UK and its Nato allies to sit by as Vladimir Putin's forces lay waste to Ukraine.

It is quite another for Britain to turn its face away from the flood of innocent refugees in the apparent belief that this is mostly somebody else’s problem.

In the two weeks since Russian forces launched their murderous assault on Ukraine, which continued yesterday with the shelling of a maternity hospital in Mariupol, more than two million people have fled for their lives.

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Unlike several European nations which adopted an open-door policy in recognition of the emergency situation, the UK has refused to drop visa requirements.

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According to Catherine Briddick, an Oxford University lecturer in refugee law, this is at odds with the 1951 Refugee Convention. It “enables people to seek protection [in another country] without having to ask for permission first. Yet this is precisely what people seeking safety in the UK from the war in Ukraine are being told to do,” she wrote.

Furthermore, the UK was a signatory to a United Nations’ motion calling for “all parties to allow safe and unfettered passage to destinations outside of Ukraine”.

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Popular opinion is also firmly in favour of helping the refugees with a YouGov poll finding 75 per cent in favour to just 11 against.

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Volunteers wait to help refugees from Ukraine arriving at the main train station in Berlin, Germany (Picture: Hannibal Hanschke/Getty Images)

However, despite mounting criticism, Boris Johnson and Home Secretary Priti Patel continue to argue that abiding by our international commitments would be a security risk and, as of yesterday, only 1,000 visas had been approved.

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In a letter to Patel, Marie van der Zyl, the president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, urged her to tackle “delays” in helping refugees fleeing Ukraine and highlighted one case that, on its own, should shame the UK into action.

Kateryna Razumenko is a 90-year-old Holocaust survivor currently living in makeshift accommodation in Poland. Van der Zyl wrote that Razumenko’s granddaughter in London “is desperately trying to bring her over to ensure that she has the care and support she needs. For that one story we know about, there are likely to be thousands of refugees, of all faiths and none, facing similar circumstances.”

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Johnson, Patel and co perhaps need to realise that when people voted for Brexit it meant this country left the European Union, not humanity itself.

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