Ms Harper’s action comes as the EU confirmed that it would take in Ukrainian refugees for up to three years without asking them to go through the paperwork of applying for asylum first – and regardless of whether or not they have a family connection in any EU member state. The South Scotland MSP has also aired her dismay and disgust at derogatory comments made by Tory MPs.
The UK government has so far refused to match EU efforts, simply restating that any Ukrainian settled in the UK will be allowed to welcome immediate family members only to join them under existing restrictive family migration rules.
The ramp up in pressure on the UK government comes after the UN confirmed today that more than 500,000 people have fled Ukraine since Russia invaded the country last week.
Recent YouGov polling also revealed that 63% of people in the UK support the UK government introducing a scheme to resettle some Ukrainian refugees fleeing the Russian invasion – with the figure rising to 76% in support in Scotland.
Ms Harper commented;
“I have written to the Home Secretary, Priti Patel, immediately to demand the UK government steps up its efforts to support those fleeing the war and seeking safety following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
“Our EU partners have already taken the welcome step in lifting visa restrictions, removing the barrier of paperwork, and welcoming them regardless of whether or not they have a family connection in any EU member state.
“Tory MP Kevin Foster’s despicable comments that Ukrainians could have visas in return for picking fruit are absolutely unbelievable and demonstrates the hostile attitude of the UK Government to those seeking refuge generally. In contrast to the positive EU action, the UK government’s visa announcement wasn’t anything new at all – it was just a description of the very restrictive family visas that are already in place which falls well short of what is needed now. Many Ukraine relations are unable to reunite with loved ones in the UK because of this which is completely unacceptable. The YouGov poll also shows how people living in Scotland regard this horrendous situation and is typical of their helping attitude to those in dire need so I call on Priti Patel and her government to do the right thing and enable easy access for Ukrainians to get to a place of safety.”
Notes for editors:
SNP Westminster Press Office