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Putin could use Ukrainian women to 'infiltrate' UK to launch terror attack, Home Sec says
19 March 2022, 14:44 | Updated: 19 March 2022, 15:47
Priti Patel has said Vladimir Putin might try to use women and children to infiltrate the UK as she defended the decision not to drop security checks on Ukrainian migrants.
The Home Secretary said the British people "will open our homes and our hearts to Ukrainians" but security could not be compromised.
The European Union has allowed visa-free travel for Ukrainians fleeing the conflict, but Ms Patel defended her approach in a speech at the Tory Party spring conference.
The vast majority of those fleeing are women and children, but Ms Patel said it would be "naive and misguided" to think that Russian agents could not be amongst them.
"I have been asked why we couldn't suspend security checks on people escaping Putin's war," she told activists in Blackpool.
"Times of conflict emphasise our need to remain watchful. "
She said "a very small number of people can wreak utter havoc" and "Russia has a history of covert, hostile activity".
"I am afraid it is naive and misguided to think that only men can be covert operatives or that refugee flows would not be subjected to some form of exploitation.
"There are those who would come to this country who mean us harm, and who plot to strike at our very way of life.
"The processes that we have put in place closely follow the advice of our intelligence and security services. They mean we can help Ukrainians in need, without making our country less safe. "
The UN's refugee agency believes more than 3.3 million people have fled Ukraine since the Russian invasion on February 24, 90% of them women or children.
The latest update from the Home Office showed 8,600 visas have been issued under the UK's family reunification scheme, out of a total of 53,600 started applications.
The separate Homes For Ukraine scheme allowing Britons to provide accommodation for someone fleeing the war zone opened on Friday.