Ukraine-Russia conflict: UK Government refuses to waive visas for people fleeing Ukraine over 'security' concerns

The UK Government has refused to waive visas for people fleeing Ukraine over “security” concerns.

Home secretary Priti Patel dismissed calls for visa waivers, warnings checks were required to stop “extremists” coming to Britain.

She made a statement on Tuesday after facing criticism for the lack of clarity following her announcement that 100,000 additional Ukrainian refugees would be able to come to the UK.

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Ms Patel told MPs that “Russian troops are seeking to infiltrate and merge with Ukrainian forces” and there are “extremists on the ground” in Ukraine.

A bystander walks past a fresco by street artist Seth depicting a girl with a Ukrainian flag walking on tanks in Paris. Picture: Joel Saget/AFP via Getty Images

She added: “Given this and also [Russian president Vladimir] Putin’s willingness to do violence on British soil, and in keeping with our approach which we have retained consistently throughout all emergency evacuations including in Afghanistan, we cannot suspend any security or biometric checks on people we welcome to our country.

“We have a collective duty to keep the British people safe and this approach is based on the strongest security advice.”

Her comments came in a statement that did see the UK Government expand the entry scheme to more relatives of those settled in the UK, as well as announce a new sponsorship programme.

Ms Patel said: “British nationals and people settled in the Ukraine can bring a wider group of family members to the UK, extending eligibility to parents, grandparents, adult offspring, siblings and their immediate family members. Again, the scheme will be free.

“Those joining family in the UK will be granted leave for an initial period of 12 months. They will be able to work and access public funds.

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“Secondly, we will establish a humanitarian sponsorship pathway which will open up a route to the UK for Ukrainians who may not have family ties with the UK, but who are able to match with individuals, charities, businesses and community groups.

“Those who come under this scheme will also be granted leave for an initial period of 12 months and they will be able to work and have access to public services.

"The Secretary of State for Levelling Up [Michael Gove] will work with the devolved administrations to ensure that those who want to sponsor an individual or family can volunteer and be matched quickly with Ukrainians in need.

“There will be no numerical limit on this scheme and we’ll welcome as many Ukrainians that wish to come and have match sponsors.”

Ms Patel also clarified the rules for the Ukrainian families of British nationals fleeing for safety, telling MPs: “Where family members of British nationals do no meet the usual eligibility criteria, but do pass all the security checks, we will give them permission to enter the UK outside the usual rules for 12 months.

“This means that British nationals and any persons settled in the UK can bring over immediate Ukrainian family members."

Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper welcomed the changes.

She told the Commons: “There will be considerable relief that the Government has now changed its position and now accepted we must do more.

“And, in particular, I’m glad the Government appears to have completely changed its policy in response to our calls to help elderly parents and wider family members, and I’m glad they have listened not just to those in this House, but across the country and, most importantly of all, to Ukrainians.”

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