Boris Johnson has already said the UK is ‘of course’ going to take refugees and pledged to help people ‘fleeing in fear of their lives’.
27 February 2022
Foreign Secretary Liz Truss has declined to say how many refugees from Ukraine the UK will accept but insisted the Government is “urgently” looking at what more it can do.
The Government has faced intense criticism over its failure so far to relax the visa requirements for Ukrainian nationals.
Ms Truss said Britain has always welcomed refugees fleeing from war, but did not say how soon the country will welcome people from Ukraine or how many will be accepted.
Asked if the Government will waive visa requirements for Ukrainians coming to the UK, she told the BBC’s Sunday Morning programme with Sophie Raworth: “It is a desperate situation. We’re working with the United Nations, we’re working with the Red Cross, to keep humanitarian corridors open.
“We’ve put support into the neighbouring countries like Slovakia and Poland to help with the refugee crisis.
“And of course Britain has always welcomed refugees fleeing from war, and we’re urgently looking at what more we can do to facilitate that.
“But ultimately what we need to make sure is that we protect Ukraine as a sovereign democracy.
“Ultimately, the people of Ukraine want to live in Ukraine.”
It was put to the Cabinet minister that anyone who has no connection to the UK cannot get in, and she was asked if that will be changed.
She said: “We are looking urgently at what we can do. We’re working with European partners about how we support refugees who are leaving Ukraine. So, yes, is the answer.”
Pressed on how many refugees the UK will accept and how soon, Ms Truss said: “Well, as I’ve said, this is something we are urgently looking at.”
She said the UK is already providing support on the ground with teams in Poland and Slovakia.
“I will be travelling to the region this week and we will do all we can to support Ukrainians, both in Ukraine and those who have had to flee because of this appalling war,” she said.
Shadow foreign secretary David Lammy said visa restrictions for those seeking sanctuary in the UK from Ukraine are “totally unacceptable”.
Speaking to Sky on Trevor Phillips on Sunday, he said it is “bureaucratic” with a “lot of red tape”.
Mr Lammy went on: “It’s insisting that people demonstrate salaries, that they have family ties in this country.
“People are fleeing with their children in their arms. Why would you ask people how rich they are to enter our country? Of course, there are some people who may not have family ties, but want to come into this country.”
Ukraine’s ambassador to the UK, Vadym Prystaiko, said neighbouring nations to Ukraine have “opened up their hearts and homes” to receive as many Ukrainians as possible.
“That’s easier for immediate evacuation,” he told the Sunday Morning programme.
He said nations further away will be asked to financially help smaller nations in their efforts.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees has updated its estimate on the number of refugees that have left Ukraine, saying the total stands at 368,000.
It said in a tweet: “Ukraine refugee numbers have just been refreshed – these are based on data made available by national authorities. The current total is now 368,000 and continues to rise.”
Earlier, Wales First Minister Mark Drakeford said the UK will need to “go beyond” its current visa arrangements for those fleeing conflict in Ukraine.
On Saturday night, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the UK is “of course” going to take refugees and pledged to help people “fleeing in fear of their lives”.