220309 - Grant Shapps 760 Visas
Independent

The UK government's insistence that it need not extend its Ukrainians refugee scheme has been called out for being pretty nonsensical.

Grant Shapps had an awkward media round this morning in which he was grilled by a number of journalists over why the UK doesn't waive visas for people leaving the war-torn country, in contrast to the European Union which has a temporary open door policy.

After it was put to him by Sky News presenter Kamali Melbourne that the UK's handling of the Ukraine refugee crisis has been "shameful", the transport secretary disagreed and claimed Ukrainian president Zelensky had told him they don't want people fleeing the country to "move far away".

"No country has given more humanitarian assistance to Ukraine than the United Kingdom in the world," he said.

"Geographically we are of course spaced further to the west, and president Zelensky and the Ukrainian government have told me that they do not want people to move far away if at all possible from the country because they want people to be able to come back."

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He then described the schemes in place to allow Ukrainians with family in Britain and those with sponsorship to seek refuge in the UK and said these schemes could bring up to 200,000 people into the country.

"We are really leaning into this at the same time respecting Ukraine's wishes... not to pull people a long way away from Ukraine which is not something that they want to see happen," he said.

It comes as the UK faces widespread criticism for its approach on refugees. Liz Truss was grilled about the issue yesterday at a foreign affairs select committee and French interior minister Gerald Darmanin has said the government schemes showed a “lack of humanity” towards refugees “in distress". “lack of humanity” towards refugees “in distress".

Ireland has an open door policy too and is not afraid to plug it.

Simon Hoare, the chair of the Northern Ireland affairs committee and frequent commentator on Anglo-Irish relations, tweeted: “Instead of criticism of our Irish friends and neighbours, [the UK] could be much better replicating its response.”

So Melbourne called Shapps out. He said: "The geographical thing doesn't quite work when Ireland's taken some 2,000 people and people in Calais are stuck at the border unable to come in."

Shapps mumbled about the importance of "checking people's status" and know who is coming into the UK for security reasons.

It make for awkward viewing, check it out for yourself:

And things didn't get better for the minister when he appeared on BBC Breakfast and was similarly grilled by Jon Kay on Britain failing to adequately put in place evacuation and visa points for refugees.

Yikes.

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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