Standing with Ukraine
Tuesday 15th March 2022
It was good to be in the Chamber yesterday to hear the Secretary of State for Levelling up, Housing and Communities, Michael Gove, announce the Homes for Ukraine programme which enables families in the UK to offer sanctuary to Ukrainian refugees. Refugees can work in the UK and access all the benefits and services of the state - but not housing, because that will be provided by communities themselves. The offer by the sponsor is for a home for a minimum of 6 months.
All the details are online at https://homesforukraine.campaign.gov.uk/ on how you can apply and families will received £350 per month if they are matched with refugees. I have been in contact with the excellent The Pickwell Foundation locally ahead of the war with regards to their work supporting Syrian refugees moving to North Devon, and yesterday asked a question in the Chamber yesterday to clarify that families working with them will still receive the £350. You can view the question and answer here.
This week I am also delighted to have been able to help a local family with visa applications for their extended Ukrainian family to join them in North Devon and am so pleased they will be arriving later this week. My office and myself are more than happy to help with any issues families are having with the new Homes for Ukraine scheme or visa applications, as we have access to Home Office caseworkers, and in this case the minister directly intervened at my request. Please do contact the office: email@example.com.
Thursday 10th March 2022
I am reassured by the Government’s recent announcement to reunite Ukrainian families here in the UK as well as allow the safe passage of more refugees by easing visa rules at this unprecedented time.
We are supporting British nationals and people settled in the UK to bring family members here, reuniting them and helping them to bring their loved ones to safety through our Ukraine Family Scheme.
Our humanitarian sponsorship pathway will allow individuals, charities, businesses and community groups to support displaced Ukrainians. We will be able to match those who do not have family ties with the UK with individuals, charities, businesses, and community groups, allowing them to volunteer to support Ukrainians in need.
I know many people have been upset that some Ukrainian refugees had been turned away at Calais. While I appreciate this is an awful thing to have to do, we should not be encouraging people to go to Calais. With the number of criminal gangs operating there, despite the work of our French allies, it is quite possibly the most dangerous place to be for a refugee seeking paperwork in France. There is no need to go to France without paperwork, especially now that the majority of people can now do all of the necessary paperwork online. We have deployed extra expert Home Office staff to Poland, Hungary and Moldova to help anyone having problems with the online system, allowing us to rapidly process visas for Ukrainians fleeing the conflict.
I know many people want us to go further and faster, but we must respect that the majority of Ukrainians want to stay close to their home and go back as soon as possible when Putin is defeated. That is why we have been the largest bilateral humanitarian donor to Ukraine, with almost £400 million in aid pledged to help the Ukrainian people. There also, sadly, many people who will be using this humanitarian crisis as an opportunity to illegally enter this country.
We do not know when this war will end and with potentially millions more refugees to come out of Ukraine it is imperative that we and the rest of Europe are prepared not only for the short term but the long haul.
No response to this crisis will ever be perfect, there will be mistakes, there will be things that we or other countries could be doing better, but it is essential through all of this that we keep strong and stand up for Ukraine.
Tuesday 8th March 2022
Yesterday I was privileged to be in the Chamber to hear the moving statement from President Zelensky of Ukraine. The horrors of war are being inflicted on the people of Ukraine by Putin, and he must fail in his endeavour.
Watching the suffering of the people of Ukraine we all want to help. Yesterday I also had the opportunity to ask the Foreign Secretary, Liz Truss, how best we could assist, and he again reiterated supporting through the DEC.
You can view the question and answer here.
I continue to raise concerns at the apparent delays in processing visas for Ukrainians wanting to seek refuge here in the UK, but there is a need to retain security checks given the complexities of our involvement in this conflict.
Today I have heard the Defence Secretary's statement committing further lethal aid to Ukraine and the exploration of donating star streak high velocity, man portable anti air missiles.
Most of us have never experienced war in Europe, and certainly not in an age of 24/7 news and social media coverage. The Government is committed to continue to work to defeat Putin and restore a sovereign Ukraine, and the President thanked our Prime Minister directly for our support in his address yesterday.
Tuesday 1st of March 2022
I am pleased to see the Government standing shoulder to shoulder with Ukraine in establishing a humanitarian sponsorship pathway which will open up a route to the UK for Ukrainians without family ties with the UK but who are able to match with individuals, charities, businesses, and community groups. This is as well as making it easier for Ukrainians living in the UK to bring their relatives to our country.
In Westminster I am proud to show my support dressed in the colours of the Ukrainian flag, alongside Defra ministers Jo Churchill and Rebecca Pow, whom I am proud to be PPS to. Whilst In the Chamber I asked the Government what practical things we can do in North Devon to help.
You can view that question and answer here.
It was heartening to see so many people were on The Square in Barnstaple to show their support for the people of Ukraine. I was invited, but unable to attend, as I was in Westminster meeting with ministers, and indeed, the Prime Minister, where we were discussing the unfolding humanitarian situation and our response to it. I would like to thank Cllr Pru Maskell for agreeing to speak at the vigil in my absence, at such short notice.
I have recently signed the book of solidarity here in Parliament and I am glad that there are now so many places that are accepting physical donations across North Devon, as well as the Red Cross and UNHCR, who are taking financial donations to help our displaced brothers and sisters in Ukraine.
We as a nation stand with Ukraine.