Another 100,000 Ukrainians will be able to seek asylum in Britain, the interior minister said, but Priti Patel ruled out the abolition of visas for those fleeing the conflict with Russia after Vladimir Putin’s invasion.
Making an announcement to the Commons, Priti Patel said family members of those who are UK citizens or have been granted settled status – who do not meet the usual eligibility criteria but are undergoing a security check – will be able to come to the UK within 12 months.
Key events in the Ukrainian crisis:
• Russia’s attack “off schedule” and “in some significant areas of unrest” – Defense Minister
• “Dozens killed in mass shelling” when both sides are holding peace talks
• Russia raises key rate to 20% after ruble falls to record low
• Roman Abramovich is trying to find a “peaceful solution” to the invasion of Ukraine, says spokesman
However, the interior minister said she would not impose the abolition of visas for fear that Russian troops and extremists might try to come to the UK.
Informing MPs of the government’s latest efforts, Ms Patel said the new “planned humanitarian route for Britain for the people of Ukraine” would “keep pace with the evolving situation on the ground”.
The Home Secretary told MPs that it “has already supported the departure of hundreds of British citizens and their families living in Ukraine”.
“UK visa and immigration staff continue to work around the clock to help them,” she said.
Ms. Patel added: “We are in direct contact with individuals and we have also lowered various salary requirements and thresholds so that people can receive support.
“If family members of UK citizens do not meet the usual eligibility criteria but pass a security check, UK visas and immigration will give them permission to enter the UK out of the rules for 12 months and give preference to all applications.
“Give British citizens and anyone who has settled in the UK the opportunity to bring their closest members of the Ukrainian family.”
Explaining why she rejects calls for the abolition of visas, the interior minister said she was following “the most pressing security advice”.
“Security checks and biometric checks are a fundamental part of our visa approval process around the world and will continue, as will the evacuation of people from Afghanistan,” she said.
“This is vital to maintaining the security of British citizens and ensuring that we help those who really need it, especially at a time when Russian troops are now invading Ukraine and merging with Ukrainian forces.
“Intelligence reports also mention the existence of extremist groups and organizations that threaten the region, but also our homeland.
“We know all too well what Putin’s Russia is ready to do, even on our own land, as we saw in the Salisbury attack.”
The Home Secretary also said Britain had asked to suspend Russia from membership in Interpol, telling the House of Commons: “We will direct all international efforts to this end.”