Nicola Sturgeon has accused the Tory Government of not playing its part in taking in a greater number of Ukrainian refugees after Russia’s invasion.
The First Minister said the UK is not doing “anywhere near enough” and described the hoops refugees were having to jump through as “unconscionable”.
The Home Office has been under pressure to do more to help people fleeing the war after it revealed that “around 50” visas had been issued under the Ukraine Family Scheme.
Home Secretary Priti Patel is examining “legal options” to create a “humanitarian route”, which would offer all Ukrainian refugees the right to come to the UK, regardless of family ties.
But it is unclear whether this refers to a sponsorship scheme already announced.
With a smaller country like Ireland taking many more refugees than the UK, Boris Johnson’s Government has been severely criticized for its response.
Sturgeon told LBC: “The UK is not doing anywhere near enough. And I think the system that is in place of having people fleeing the terror in Ukraine, spending hours and hours and hours on arduous journeys, then having to jump through bureaucratic hoops is unconscionable.
“And we only have to compare the 50 or so visas that have been granted for entry to the UK so far, with more than 1000 Ukrainians who have already managed to enter the Republic of Ireland, a country much, much smaller than the UK.
“And what Ireland is doing is what the UK should be doing. It’s allowing people in and then doing the paperwork once they have managed to get that refuge and sanctuary here.
She added: “I think if the UK Government does not significantly change its approach here, then increasingly, there are people going to be looking at the UK and concluding that on a humanitarian level, it is not doing nearly enough to help those fleeing horror and terror in Ukraine.
“We already have one and a half million people who have been displaced, that number, sadly, is only going to grow in the days and weeks ahead. All countries must step up and fully play their part and the UK is not yet doing so.”
The Tory chair of Westminster’s Foreign Affairs Committee also cranked up the pressure by saying the Home Office’s rate of visas for Ukrainian refugees “is certainly not a success”.
LBC’s Nick Ferrari asked Conservative MP Tom Tugendhat if the Home Office had failed by granting just 50 Ukrainian refugee visas so far.
“Well, it’s certainly not a success is it?” Tugendhat said.
“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.
“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.”
Europe Minister James Cleverly said the number of Ukrainians being granted visas for the UK would increase “very, very quickly”.
He told LBC: “The numbers of people who are seeking refuge is unprecedented. This is the largest refugee flow that we have seen since the Second World War.”
The Home Office “had to create a system pretty much from scratch”, he said.
“It will take a little time to get the system up and running, that’s now there, I have no doubt that the numbers will start coming through.”
He added that the UK authorities had a “duty of care” to those being let in and checks had to be carried out to assess who they were and what help they required.
“That process will get quicker and slicker and faster, I have no doubt.”
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