Yvette Cooper: Home Office had a 'departmental failure' over Ukraine crisis

15 March 2022, 19:10

By Asher McShane

Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper said tonight there had been a "departmental failure" to properly prepare for the Ukraine war refugee crisis.

Speaking on LBC's Tonight with Andrew Marr, she accused the Home Office of splitting up families and leaving desperate people "stuck" in limbo, running out of money and food while waiting for the right paperwork to come to the UK.

Ms Cooper said: “I think there has been a departmental failure to plan. We were warned by British intelligence some time ago that an invasion of Ukraine by Russia was likely.

“It was inevitable there would be refugee consequences for that. The Home Office should have planned and they didn’t do that. But it’s also the responsibility of ministers to demand a plan.

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“The fundamental mistake… was to think they could just do this through the existing normal visa requirement.”

Earlier today, Theresa May raised concerns over human traffickers targeting child refugees at the country's borders, and has urged the Government to act with "urgency".

During a general debate on Ukraine in the House of Commons, Mrs May said: "This is happening in Poland. It's happening in other countries where Ukrainian refugees are fleeing to.

"It's a sad reflection on human nature that the very point where these women and children are fleeing Ukraine for their safety to find refuge elsewhere, the criminal gangs have moved in to make money from the trafficking of what they consider to be yet another commodity, that is human beings, and they are attempting to make money out of this human distress and vulnerability."

The MP for Maidenhead urged the Government to put in place a system that means "there can be no unidentified children left to the mercy of the traffickers".

She also stressed the need to catch and prosecute the traffickers and to ensure that Border Force recognises the possibility of trafficked Ukrainian children being brought into the UK.

Mrs May said: "There are many unaccompanied children coming over, not necessarily orphans, but children who may not just have their family with them when they come in.

"Some of those children don't have papers. The Polish authorities, I understand, are making valiant efforts to look for papers, to find papers, to photograph children, to find some sort of record of the children, to identify them.

"What we know is that there is no database, there is no real means of that identification and tracking of what is happening to those children.

"My first ask for ministers is whether they will now work urgently with UN agencies, the European Commission and the tech companies to find a resolution to this issue, to put in place a system that means that there can be no unidentified children left to the mercy of the traffickers.

"Europol and Interpol almost certainly need to be involved here, as do the various police and law enforcement agencies across Europe.

"There'll be an absolutely key role for our National Crime Agency. I believe they should be taking the lead in this."

Mrs May said the Government needs to recognise that some children will be "prey to the traffickers and some of them may be brought across borders here into the United Kingdom", adding: "Now, it is possible to identify children who are being trafficked when they are being brought through the border.

She asked for the Home Office to be 'vigilant' to ensure Border Force recognises the possibility of trafficked Ukrainian children being brought into the country across the border.