Minister grilled over disclosure ‘around 50’ visa have been granted to Ukrainian refugees

A government minister has been grilled over revelations that as few as 50 visas have been granted for Ukrainian refugees to come to the UK.

James Cleverly, a Foreign Office minister, acknowledged that “only small numbers” fleeing Russia’s brutal invasion had come to Britain but so far – but insisted the process “has only just started”.

The testy exchange came after the Home Office disclosed that only “around 50” visas had been granted under the Ukraine Family Scheme as of 10 am Sunday while 5,535 applications had been completed.

Under the scheme — announced last week — Ukrainians with family ties to the UK can apply for a visa lasting up to there years while Priti Patel, the home secretary, is said to be examining a separate “humanitarian route” for those without family links.

But pressed on Sky News on the low numbers granted visas so far, Mr Cleverly insisted: “This situation has occurred only over the last couple of days.

“Of course, the vast majority of people have just crossed the border into the neighboring countries and of course what we are saying is we are supporting them there.

“We are also going to make sure we host Ukrainians here in the UK whether temporarily… we have got to make sure that we have the processes in place to do that”.

In at times testy exchange with presenter Kay Burley, who asked the minister “what processes”, Mr Cleverly replied: “If you’re going to ask questions, you’ve got to let me reply”.

Quizzed again on the approved visa figures, he went on: “We have processes in place where by people with family here in the UK and indeed those without family in the UK can come to the UK.

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He added: “Only small numbers have come thus far and I would remind you the process has only just started and the vast majority of people are physically still in the countries neighboring Ukraine.

This map shows the extent of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine

(Press Association Images)

“We want to help these people whether they’ve been in Bulgaria, Slovakia, Poland, where a large number of people are, and also we want to help them when they come to the UK”.

Speaking on LBC, however, the Conservative MP Tom Tugendhat, the chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee, told LBC it was “certainly not a success” when asked if the government had failed in approving just 50 Ukrainian refugee visas so far.

“What we need to do is to make sure that we get the Home Office absolutely delivering, to make sure that we get the support for those who are most in need,” he said.

“The British people are extremely generous, you and I both know that.

“This isn’t some sort of, you know, illegal scam. This is, perfectly obviously, people fleeing for their lives and we need to be absolutely there to support them.”

Ms Patel, who was also under fire for the visa approval numbers on Sunday, also told The Sun that the Home Office was now “investigating the legal options to create a humanitarian route” for those without ties to the UK and fleeing the conflict.

“This means anyone without ties to the UK fleeing the conflict in Ukraine will have a right to come to this nation,” she added, despite already ruling out an open door policy.

The Independent has a proud history of campaigning for the rights of the most vulnerable, and we first ran our Refugees Welcome campaign during the war in Syria in 2015. Now, as we renew our campaign and launch this petition in the wake of the unfolding Ukrainian crisis, we are calling on the government to go further and faster to ensure help is delivered. To find out more about our Refugees Welcome campaign, click here. To sign the petition click here. If you would like to donate then please click here for our GoFundMe page.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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