Cardiff Airport could welcome thousands of Ukrainian refugees

Wizz Air, which operates in and out of Cardiff, has offered 100,000 free tickets to refugees. Credit: PA

A UK Government minister has promised to look closely at a proposal to offer 100,000 free flights to Ukrainian refugees, which could see Cardiff Airport receiving some of those flights. 

Wizz Air, which has recently begun operating out of Cardiff, was the only EU airline to have a base in Ukraine, but has had to suspend flights there because of the Russian invasion.

The company has offered 100,000 free tickets to refugees once they reach neighboring countries.

Plaid Cymru MP Ben Lake raised the offer in the House of Commons with Levelling Up Minister Michael Gove, who is co-ordinating efforts between the UK Home Office and the devolved governments.

He said: “The airline Wizzair has offered to fly Ukrainian refugees from Poland, Slovakia, Hungary and Romania.

"There are indications that Cardiff Airport could be a destination for some of these flights. 

Wizz Air has offered 100,000 free plane tickets to Ukrainian refugees who reach neighbouring countries. Credit: PA

“I understand that there have been initial conversations with the Welsh Government, but would the Secretary of State lend his support to coordinating a post-flight visa processing facility at Cardiff Airport, so that Ukrainians fleeing the warzone can be brought to Wales quickly and safely?”

Mr Gove said: “I’ll look with my colleague the Home Secretary closely at that proposal. It’s important that we have appropriate biometric checks. I appreciate the offer and we have been talking to the Welsh Government about how we can coordinate our efforts.”

It comes as the Home Office said “around 50” visas had been given the green light under the Ukraine Family Scheme, as of 10am on Sunday.

Boris Johnson was asked if he was happy with that number - given an estimated 1.5 million people have fled the country - and replied: "I'm not sure those numbers are right. But we are processing thousands as I speak to you.

"Clearly, this crisis is evolving the whole time and I've said before that the UK will be as generous as we possibly can be, and we intend to do that."

Ben Lake later accused the Home Office of "frustrating efforts "to make Wales a "safe haven for Ukrainians fleeing war."

He added: “People fleeing a war zone should not be expected to have to navigate so many bureaucratic hoops to reach safety. We should be welcoming people here first, and dealing with the paperwork later. 

“The simplest and fairest solution would be for the UK Government to follow our European partners and waive visa requirements for three years.”

A Welsh Government spokesperson said: “We are in talks with Cardiff Airport to discuss the feasibility of flying Ukrainian refugees directly into Wales. 

"However, the UK Government is responsible for borders and immigration policy, and we continue to urge them to do more to provide sanctuary for those fleeing the atrocities in Ukraine.”

The Home Office insist its offer is generous and means there's no limit on the number of refugees who can come to the UK.

Officials also say that as well as established means for Ukranian refugees to come to Britain, there will also be a new visa for those with no ties to the UK.

This "uncapped sponsored humanitarian visa route will allow sponsors, such as communities, private sponsors or local authorities, to bring people to the UK for an initial 12 months.

A UK Government spokesperson said, “We have been working at pace to launch the Ukraine Family Scheme and it is now open for extended family members to apply.

“As well as immediate family members, British nationals and people of any nationality settled in the UK will be supported to bring parents, grandparents, grandchildren, adult children and siblings to the UK.

“An unlimited sponsorship route is also opening soon for Ukrainians without family ties here, so communities, local authorities and others can sponsor and support those in need to come to the UK.”