8 March 2022
Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown secures Urgent Question on Ukraine refugee applications

Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown MP secures an Urgent Question to the Home Office on how the department can speed up the urgent refugee applications coming from those leaving Ukraine.

Ukraine: Urgent Refugee Applications


Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown (The Cotswolds) (Con)

(Urgent Question): To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if she will make a statement on how her Department can speed up the urgent refugee applications coming from those leaving Ukraine.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Kevin Foster)

President Putin’s invasion of Ukraine is a barbaric and unprovoked attack and we stand shoulder to shoulder with the Ukrainian people. He must fail in Ukraine.

This Government have brought forward a generous humanitarian offer to those Ukrainians who want to come to the UK to escape the conflict. Last week, the Home Secretary announced a new Ukraine family scheme for those with family ties to the UK, and we are extending the scheme further to include aunts, uncles, nephews, nieces, cousins and in-laws. The scheme went live last Friday and has already seen over 10,000 applications submitted, for which over 500 visas have been issued, with more being issued as we speak. We have also announced that we are setting up a new humanitarian sponsorship visa, and we are working at pace with our colleagues in the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities to set that up. We will also work with the devolved Administrations.

We have made significant progress in a short space of time, on top of the first phase of the package that my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary set out to the House last week. I also remind the House that a crucial part of the application process is providing biometrics so that we can be sure that applicants are who they say they are. Sadly, we are already seeing people presenting at Calais with false documents claiming to be Ukrainian. With incidents like Salisbury still in our minds, the Government will not take chances with the security of this country and our people. Our friends in the United States, Canada and Australia are rightly taking the same approach as we are.

I would like to update the House on the measures that we are taking to speed up and process the applications and to ensure that we can help applicants as quickly as possible. We have surged staff to key visa application centres across Europe, particularly in Poland, and moved more biometric kit to support them. We have ensured that casework teams are standing by in the UK to process applications to ensure that there are no delays.

We will also establish a larger presence in northern France to help Ukrainians in the region. It is essential that we do not create a choke point at places like Calais, where dangerous people smugglers are present, and ensure the smooth flow of people through the system from across Europe. Alongside that, we are working with our embassies around the world to ensure that we use our diplomatic channels to support our efforts and to provide the latest information.

We have taken decisive action. We are now providing regular public updates on our casework numbers and we will continue to keep the House updated on this progress.

Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown 

I thank my hon. Friend for that comprehensive answer. It is very impressive that the Prime Minister and this Government have taken such a world-leading role, uniting the west in imposing one of the toughest sanctions regimes and providing military support for Ukraine.

However, the UK has always been generous in admitting refugees, especially in times of crisis in Europe, dating back to the Huguenots. Concerned constituents have contacted me, so will my hon. Friend tell the House how we can speed up the necessary processing of refugees leaving the truly awful situation in Ukraine? Will he also update the House on what is happening in Calais, so that they can be processed either there or close by with transport provided?

I understand that we require a process to securely check applications that are made not only for security reasons, but so that we can provide support in this country. However, we surely could speed the process up by, for example, rewashing biometric and other data that we already have. We need not only efficiency, but humanity when processing applications of refugees from Ukraine and we should warmly welcome those refugees to this country.

Kevin Foster 

I thank my hon. Friend for the way in which he put his questions. He is right that we as a country have stood forward to support Ukraine, not least in supplying it with the weaponry that is being used to defend people’s homes and to push back this barbaric and unprovoked attack on their nation.

I appreciate that there are concerns. We are training new caseworkers, who, as of tomorrow, will take more decisions. We are looking to review what we can and to use some of the technology that we have—for example, around what we deployed for the British nationals overseas route and how that could be brought into effect. We are also reviewing some of the requirements on biometrics for under-18s to free up visa appointments in visa application centres.

On my hon. Friend’s specific points on northern France, we are looking to establish a presence in Lille and potentially looking at transport options from Calais to Lille. There are issues with providing particular application points at the port, but we are looking at how we can do it, and we expect that to be set up within the next 24 hours.