David Cameron calls on Govt to make visa system easier for Ukrainian refugees

10 March 2022, 14:08

Former PM David Cameron says he would put his trust in Minister for Refugees Richard Harrington
Former PM David Cameron says he would put his trust in Minister for Refugees Richard Harrington. Picture: LBC/Alamy

By Megan Hinton

Former Prime Minister David Cameron has called on the Government to make the visa system easier for people fleeing Ukraine, as he urged Boris Johnson to put his trust in the new refugees minister.

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Speaking on Tonight with Andrew Marr, Mr Cameron said he is confident the Minister for Refugees Richard Harrington will "get it done".

He said: "I know exactly what it is like as Prime Minister you want something to happen, you say something should happen and that we should be generous and then it doesn't happen. And it is incredibly frustrating.

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"I think the Prime Minister took a very good step in appointing Richard Harrington as a special minister to deal with refugees.

"This is what I did with Syria, with exactly the same person, we had a programme to allow 25,000 people in, to find them from the camps.

"I asked Richard to get it done, he was brilliant at it and I'm sure he will on this.

"And I hope he is he is allowed to say if we go shorter on visas, and just going on Ukrainian passports and perhaps something else, then let's find the way to get it done. I would put my trust in him and give him the ability."

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Mr Cameron also said ministers are 'behind the national mood' on Ukrainian refugees as he urged the Government to do more.

Speaking to Andrew on Wednesday evening he said: "I think they are. But the way through that is to say this is a refugee situation where we want to help... and let the [refugee minister] get on with the job."

He declined to criticise Home Secretary Priti Patel, adding: "I'm not here to pick apart different people in the Government, I'm trying to avoid that in my post-office life.

"But we've got to get this done, the Prime Minister wants it done and I'm sure it will be."

It comes as Home Office minister Baroness Williams of Trafford suggested a further 1,000 visas will be granted to Ukrainian refugees on Wednesday.

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Enver Solomon, chief executive of the Refugee Council, urged ministers to urgently waive visa applications for people fleeing war-torn Ukraine in what he described as the "worst refugee crisis in Europe since the Second World War".

Mr Solomon told the Commons Home Affairs Committee: "Unfortunately, I don't think we're in a very good place. We're looking at the worst refugee crisis in Europe since the Second World War, we have a scheme in place that's only issued hundreds of visas to allow Ukrainians to come here.

"We have Ukrainians queuing up in Calais, at the visa application centre in Poland, unable to access documentation.

"And I think the Government is making a fundamental error here. It's not adopting a 'refugees first' approach, which it should be adopting. It seems to be adopting an approach which is 'paperwork over people' - people who have lost everything through no fault of their own."

Jewish leaders have also called on the Home Secretary to tackle "delays" in helping refugees fleeing Ukraine amid reports of a 90-year-old holocaust survivor trying to reach her granddaughter in London.

Marie van der Zyl, the president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, wrote to Priti Patel asking her to "substantially increase capacity" to provide UK visas to Ukrainian refugees who are "stranded and vulnerable to lack of shelter and malnutrition as well as the dangers of war".

She highlighted the case of Kateryna Razumenko, who reportedly fled her home and is now in Poland while trying to reunite with family in the UK.

Ms van der Zyl said: "This is a fast-moving situation and I am sure that both the Government and civil servants are working around the clock to ensure that the United Kingdom plays its role in accepting and supporting refugees.

"Nevertheless, there are inevitable delays in the process, leading to refugees being stranded and vulnerable to lack of shelter and malnutrition as well as the dangers of war.

"We strongly welcome the Government's family sponsorship programme, the intention to establish a humanitarian sponsorship pathway and your leadership in this matter.

"Unfortunately, the current process appears to be far too slow.

"The Jewish community has been moved in particular by a case of a 90-year-old Holocaust and Holodomor survivor, who is currently living in makeshift accommodation in Poland, but whose granddaughter in London is desperately trying to bring her over to ensure that she has the care and support she needs.

"For that one story we know about, there are likely to be thousands of refugees, of all faiths and none, facing similar circumstances.

"I am therefore asking for you to substantially increase capacity for delivering the family sponsorship programme and establish the humanitarian sponsorship pathway for which all Ukrainian refugees are eligible as quickly as possible."

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