By Isabel Ringrose
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New wave of refugees from Ukraine faces racism of Europe’s borders

Politicians that welcome refugees from Ukraine are the same that want to shut others out
Issue 2794
 A group of Nigerian refugees move between platforms hoping to catch a train in Lviv

A group of Nigerian refugees move between platforms hoping to catch a train in Lviv. African migrants report being blocked from travel (Picture: Alamy Live News)

The fallout of the Ukraine war is exposing the hypocrisy of the Tories and governments across Europe over refugees.

Up to three million Ukrainians could attempt to escape the country in upcoming weeks. As of last weekend, only Ukrainians with British citizen family members could freely apply for sanctuary in Britain.

The Tories were forced to concede on this, having previously refused to relax visa restrictions. But they still made it difficult for Ukrainians to come to Britain. Their main visa application centre in Kiev has been shut. A centre for family members of British nationals remained open in the city of Lviv, over 350 miles away.

The narrow definition of family member included a spouse or civil partner, an unmarried partner who has cohabitated for at least two years, and some parents.

Some temporary measures were put in place to extend visas for Ukrainians in Britain whose visas will soon expire. Standard visas, which cost up to £95 for six months, were also open, but did not include fleeing war among the list of acceptable reasons for applying. And these are only granted if applicants plan to return home after six months.

Longer visit visas were available—but can cost from £361 for two years to £822 for ten. That’s on top of fast‑track, processing and ­appointment fees. The government did not waive fees for family members of non-British citizens living in Britain, or those who can’t afford them.

The Labour Party made a show of expressing outrage against Boris Johnson and home secretary Priti Patel for not relaxing restrictions further for Ukrainian refugees. But it doesn’t extend its outrage to the Nationality and Borders bill currently going through parliament that seeks to make it harder for refugees to enter Britain.

It’s just one example of how the crisis is exposing the hypocrisy and double standards of Europe’s border controls. Africans and other international citizens in Ukraine have found themselves being blocked from leaving the country.

One father of three said the driver and military officers on board one bus made his family and others leave after telling them “no blacks”.

Around 24 Jamaican students who arrived in Lviv from Kharkiv in Ukraine were forced to walk 12 miles to Poland. They were blocked from a bus carrying students to Poland.

Poland is being applauded for allowing Ukrainian refugees in, without restrictions, documentation or visas, unlike Britain. But for months its border has blocked refugees from across the Middle East trying to cross from Belarus, leaving them to freeze to death in forests.

In Britain, the Tories could be forced into concessions and into relaxing some rules to allow more refugees in. This goes against their determination to make Britain as hostile as possible to migrants and refugees. And it contradicts their anti-refugee Borders and Nationality Bill

But already the partial U-turn is more than Syrian, Iraqi, Afghan, Somali, Yemeni and other refugees fleeing Britain’s wars have experienced. The Tories’ hypocrisy will also be on display if boats of “undocumented” Ukrainian refugees begin to cross the Channel.

Anti-racists must demand the Tories open the borders to ­everyone who wants to come to Britain—wherever they’re from, and whatever their reason.


Join the Stand up to Racism demonstrations in London and Glasgow on 19 March and Cardiff on 20 March. For details go to bit.ly/SUTRfor22


Who deserves a boycott?

Cultural and sporting boycotts are designed to turn Russia into an international pariah.

For example, the Fifa world football authorities have banned the Russians from hosting matches ahead of next month’s World Cup qualifying play-offs. And it is under pressure to expel them from all competition. Even the Eurovision song contest has barred Russia.

Ordinary people’s revulsion at the Russian invasion is entirely reasonable. But there’s gross hypocrisy at work here. England wasn’t ejected from the World Cup after invading Iraq and Afghanistan. And the authorities resolutely oppose calls for sporting sanctions against Israel. 

There was a furore against Ben and Jerry’s last year for refusing to sell Ice Cream in West Bank settlements, with implications that it was antisemitic.

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