Poland and Hungary have so far dealt with the brunt of the humanitarian fallout from the Russia-Ukraine war, but other European nation states are stepping up their efforts to contribute a helping hand.
According to GB News, the British Home Secretary Priti Patel visited Poland over the weekend. She went there to launch the UK government’s new visa scheme for Ukrainians who have found safety in Poland—their neighbour and Slavic sister nation—as the dogs of war ravage their homeland. The move came after criticism from some quarters, particularly the Labour Party, that the UK government has not been doing enough for Ukrainians displaced by the Russian invasion.
Initially, the Home Office was only showing this level of generosity to Ukrainians with immediate family residing in Britain. But changes to that more restrictive policy were announced on Tuesday, March 1st. “As well as immediate family members,” Patel said, “British nationals and people of any nationality settled in the UK will now be supported to bring parents, grandparents, adult children, and siblings” from the warzone to the safety of Britain. The government has since declared that the length of these visas will be extended from 12 months to three years.
Under pressure to do more for Ukrainians, the Home Office has also unveiled plans for a sponsored humanitarian visa route. On Friday March 4th, Patel travelled to Medyka, a village in south-eastern Poland on the border with Ukraine, to oversee the rollout of this sponsorship scheme. On top of the pre-existing plans to aid Ukrainians with British family members, these arrangements are designed to allow communities, private sponsors, and local authorities to arrange safe passage for other people wishing to make their way into Britain from the war-torn country.
As of 10 a.m. on Sunday, March 6th, iNews reports that among the several thousands submitted, only 50 visa applications have so far been processed and allocated. Now back in Britain, the Home Secretary responded to accusations of sluggishness by saying that the government is doing “everything possible” to accelerate the process, including “surging capacity across every single application centre across the EU.”
Still, the Labour Party continues to demand more, making calls for a comprehensive “emergency protection visa.” This would assert the right of all Ukrainians, whatever their family status, to settle in Britain for a minimum period of 12 months. As Sky News reports, Labour’s Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper has insisted that the Ukrainian people “need a simple and safe route to sanctuary now.”
The Prime Minister Boris Johnson has already declared that as many as 200,00 refugees could come to Britain. As pressure mounts, that figure is likely to rise in the coming weeks.