Priti Patel travels to Polish border with Ukraine to launch new visa scheme

Labour urged her to go further by creating a simple emergency visa.

David Hughes
Friday 04 March 2022 00:01
Displaced persons carry luggage as they arrive at a border crossing in Medyka, Poland (Markus Schreiber/AP)
Displaced persons carry luggage as they arrive at a border crossing in Medyka, Poland (Markus Schreiber/AP)

Priti Patel will meet Ukrainians seeking to flee to the UK as she faced fresh pressure to do more to help people escape the war zone.

The Home Secretary will visit Poland to launch the Ukraine family scheme, allowing Britons and those settled in the UK to bring their relatives over to join them.

But Labour urged her to go further by creating a simple emergency visa allowing anyone fleeing the conflict to come to the UK.

Ms Patel will travel to Medyka in eastern Poland on the border with Ukraine to see the situation for herself.

Ahead of the visit she said: “The British Government will do everything it can to support the Ukrainian people at this critical moment as they fight for freedom.

“I have developed the Ukraine family scheme following discussions with the Ukrainian Government and neighbouring countries and I am proud to have launched it within a matter of days, enabling Ukrainians with family in the United Kingdom to be welcomed safely, quickly and free of charge.

“The United Kingdom stands to shoulder with Ukrainians, providing humanitarian practical support.”

Priti Patel (Aaron Chown/PA)

The UK’s initial visa offer was restricted to immediate family but was widened on Tuesday to include parents, grandparents and siblings, with applications opening on Friday.

A sponsorship scheme will also allow individuals and organisations to bring Ukrainians to the UK.

But shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper called for a far more flexible “emergency protection visa” valid for 12 months for all seeking to leave Ukraine.

Labour said the move would lift normal visa conditions other than biometrics and security checks, which could be done en route to the UK.

Ms Cooper said: “Families fleeing conflict in Ukraine need urgent help right now to reach safety and get support.

“We’ve all heard the harrowing stories from those driven out by the Russian bombardment who are now desperate to reach friends or family here who can support them. The UK must not turn those Ukrainians away.

“People need a simple and safe route to sanctuary right now.

“Most want to stay close to home, especially those who have had to leave relatives behind, but the UK must play its part to help people seeking support and safety in our country too.”

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