ITV News Deputy Political Editor Anushka Asthana has the latest on the UK's plan for Ukrainian refugees
When it comes to the British response to the Ukrainian crisis, today has seen the focus turn to the plight of refugees. Others countries – like Ireland – have lifted visa restrictions to allow people to come more freely. But so far, the UK government has resisted that – with Boris Johnson only promising a limited move tonight. His plan will allow Ukrainians fully settled in Britain to bring over immediate relatives, with visa requirements cut back to just a security check.
The Home Office is likely to put forward a fuller package in days to come – but it is unlikely to satisfy campaigners. Bella Sankey – director of the charity Detention Action – argued that the government’s borders’ bill would criminalise Ukrainians coming to Britain without prior permission and allow the home secretary to send them to an offshore detention camp. “Parliamentarians must demand this bill is scrapped and that Ukrainians seeking asylum in the UK are given an accessible route which is free from bureaucracy.”
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EU countries said they will welcome Ukrainian refugees for up to 3 years without seeking asylum. Labour’s shadow foreign secretary, David Lammy, has argued that a more generous scheme that cut back red tape and salary thresholds for applicants would not mean millions come, because most would want to remain close to Ukraine. Tonight I met Ukrainian protesters in London who also called on the government to go further on visas – with student Zoryana Mud allowing people to bring more distant relatives and friends as well. But she and others – like 22-year-old Andriy Zapotichny- said the main demand was around more military equipment for Ukrainians, both saying their relatives wanted to stay in their home country to fight. That is similar to a big call coming from civil society groups in Ukraine tomorrow. Their demands are around military support, including their hope for safe areas in the country for civilians– secured by a no-fly zone overhead if necessary – and even tougher sanctions. In protests across Europe – in Italy, France, Germany and the UK – there were calls for more of Russia to be thrown off the banking system, Swift. Sources tell me Boris Johnson will continue to push for more action on Swift after countries agreed to cut some Russian banks out of it.