Priti Patel accused of misleading MPs over help for Ukrainian refugees at Calais

Home secretary wrongly claimed to have set up visa centre which is not yet operational

Andrew Woodcock
Political Editor
Tuesday 08 March 2022 14:12
Comments
Refugees Welcome: The Independent launches campaign to help Ukraine's refugees

Priti Patel has been accused by a senior Conservative MP of misleading parliament over arrangements for Ukrainian refugees trying to reach the UK via Calais.

A furious Sir Roger Gale told the Commons that “in any normal administration”, her behaviour would have been a resignation matter.

Boris Johnson’s government has been blasted as “inhumane” by France over its treatment of Ukrainians arriving at the port, who are being turned away and told to apply for visas in Paris or Brussels.

Ms Patel has come under fire for implementing a system which is much less generous than in other European countries, resulting in just 300 being granted the right to enter Britain by Monday, at a time when Poland is hosting more than 1 million and other EU states have opened their doors to hundreds of thousands more.

In the House of Commons on Monday, Ms Patel twice claimed that she had set up a visa application centre (VAC) on the way to the French port to process applications from people fleeing the Russian invasion.

However, when told later in the debate that Downing Street did not believe that a VAC was yet in operation, she backtracked, telling shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper that “we are setting up another VAC en route to Calais”.

Instead of admitting that she had given inaccurate information, Ms Patel wrongly told Ms Cooper that she had already “made quite clear” that the centre had not yet been set up and accused the Labour frontbencher of mishearing her earlier comments.

What she had in fact told MPs was that “we have set up a bespoke VAC en route to Calais but away from the port”.

The Independent is raising money for the people of Ukraine – if you would like to donate then please click here for our GoFundMe page.

So far our appeal has raised £115,000 for the people of Ukraine, but they need more, please give what you can to help support them.

The Home Office later confirmed in a statement that the UK was “in the process” of setting up a VAC in France to process applications from Ukrainians referred to it by Border Force. Ministers today said that it was likely to be sited in Lille, around 75 miles away from Calais.

Veteran Tory backbencher Sir Roger, who asked Ms Patel about the situation in Calais during Monday’s debate, said it was clear that the home secretary’s reply was “untrue”.

“The home secretary has misled the House of Commons,” he said.

“In response to my question yesterday she said ‘I have made it clear, in terms of the visa application centre that has now been set up en-route to Calais that we have staff in Calais’.

“That is untrue. There was no visa application centre ‘en-route to Calais’ and refugees from the war in Ukraine are being sent back to Paris or Brussels to obtain visas.

(PA Graphics)

“What is needed is a visa waiver scheme that allows Ukrainian children and adults with a valid Ukrainian passport to be allowed into Britain without unnecessary bureaucracy and delay.”

He told the House of Commons today: “There is no visa centre at Lille. A week ago the home secretary announced a humanitarian sponsorship visa. There is as yet no humanitarian sponsor visa.”

Sir Roger called on the government to allow anyone with a Ukrainian passport into the UK without a visa.

There was no immediate response from the Home Office this morning to The Independent’s query over whether Ms Patel will now correct the record or apologise for misleading the Commons.

Unlike other European countries, the UK is demanding that Ukrainians seeking sanctuary apply for visas, which are granted only to those with family links in Britain. A second scheme, not yet in operation, will allow entry to individuals sponsored by councils, charities or businesses.

The Independent has a proud history of campaigning for the rights of the most vulnerable, and we first ran our Refugees Welcome campaign during the war in Syria in 2015. Now, as we renew our campaign and launch this petition in the wake of the unfolding Ukrainian crisis, we are calling on the government to go further and faster to ensure help is delivered. To find out more about our Refugees Welcome campaign, click here. To sign the petition click here. If you would like to donate then please click here for our GoFundMe page.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Please enter a valid email
Please enter a valid email
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Please enter your first name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
Please enter your last name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
You must be over 18 years old to register
You must be over 18 years old to register
Opt-out-policy
You can opt-out at any time by signing in to your account to manage your preferences. Each email has a link to unsubscribe.

By clicking ‘Create my account’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

Comments

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in