By Sam Ord
Downloading PDF. Please wait... Issue 2796

Tories keep up hostility to Ukrainian refugees

Anti-racists must demand open borders for all refugees—wherever they come from.
Issue 2796
A group of Ukrainian refugees, women and children, in winter clothes with their belongings

Ukrainian refugees have fled to Poland (Pic: Mirek Pruchnicki/Wikipedia)

Over 2.5 million people have so far fled Ukraine following Russia’s brutal invasion. But refugees won’t be welcomed by the British government.

It’s not a matter of incompetence or a lack of coordination, it’s an expression of Britain’s wider hostility towards all migrants and refugees. And it’s why anti-racists have to raise the demand for open borders to all refugees—wherever they come from.

Ukraine’s neighbouring nations of Moldova, Romania, Poland, Hungary and Slovakia are where most have settled. The United Nations has described it as the fastest-growing refugee crisis since the Second World War.  At the start of this week Britain had offered only around 3,000 visas through the Ukraine family scheme.

The daughter of a Ukrainian ­refugee warned of the anger and frustration of people waiting for visas at an “understaffed” British visa application centre. Marianne Kay from Yorkshire told the BBC if delays continue much longer “it does feel like there will be riots”.

She had travelled to Rzeszow in Poland to help her 79 year old mother Antonina Kolodii to safety in Britain. Marianne said crowds including elderly people and young children gathered from the early morning, with some people left ­outside in freezing temperatures.

“It’s really inappropriate to treat people who haven’t slept for days and nights for a long time,” she said. “They have crossed the border in the cold, in the dark, in difficult conditions. And they can’t cope very well.” 

In a new scheme the Tories have announced there will be no cap on the number of Ukrainian refugees who can live with host families. But they could be thrown out after as little as six months. 

The Refugee Council said, “We are concerned that people from Ukraine are still not being recognised as refugees and being asked to apply for visas when they just need to be guaranteed protection.  

“This programme falls short of enabling any Ukrainian, particularly the most vulnerable such as ­children who are alone, to seek safety in the UK and access the full support they urgently need.”

A similar host system was ­implemented in 2015 for people fleeing Syria but only about 700 individuals benefited. It should be the government that takes responsibility for refugees’ welfare, not dependent on the acts of individuals.

The Labour Party has called for a better and more humane system. But there shouldn’t be a need for visas anyway. People fleeing war shouldn’t face bureaucratic obstacles.

Black refugees continue to be the most victimised by Europe’s borders. The armed forces of Belarus have pushed some refugees originally from the Middle East and Africa back into Ukraine. 

One demand from anti-racists has to be the dumping of the Border and Nationality bill, now going through its last parliamentary stages. It will make life harder for all refugees and threaten citizenship rights for ­millions of people already here.

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