Half a million people flee Ukraine – as UK rules out visa waiver for refugees

Politics

A further 100,000 Ukrainians will be able to seek sanctuary in the UK, the home secretary has announced, but Priti Patel has ruled out a visa waiver for those fleeing the conflict with Russia following Vladimir Putin’s invasion.

Making the announcement in the Commons, Priti Patel said family members of those who are British nationals or have been given settled status – who do not meet the usual eligibility criteria but pass security checks – will be able to come to the UK for 12 months.

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Ms Patel said the UK’s new “bespoke humanitarian route” for the people of Ukraine would “keep pace with the developing situation on the ground”.

The home secretary told MPs this has “already supported hundreds of British nationals and their families resident in Ukraine to leave”.

“The UK visas and immigration staff continue to work around the clock to assist them,” she said.

Ms Patel added: “We are in direct contact with individuals and we’ve also lowered various requirements and salary thresholds so that people can be supported.

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“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.”

Outlining why she was rejecting calls for a visa waiver, the home secretary said she was following the “strongest security advice” in doing so.

“Security and biometric checks are a fundamental part of our visa approval process worldwide and will continue, as they did for the evacuation of people from Afghanistan,” she said.

“That is vital to keep British citizens safe and to ensure that we are helping those in genuine need, particularly as Russian troops are now infiltrating Ukraine and merging into Ukrainian forces.

“Intelligence reports also state the presence of extremist groups and organisations who threaten the region but also our domestic homeland.

“We know all too well what Putin’s Russia is willing to do, even on our soil, as we saw through the Salisbury attack.”

The home secretary also revealed the UK has asked for Russia to be suspended from its membership of Interpol, telling the Commons: “We’ll be leading all international efforts to that effect.”

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