Rachael Maskell, MP for York Central, has written to the Home Secretary Priti Patel and the Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) Michael Gove to set out an alternative safe and secure means of responding to the refugee crisis at pace and at scale. Measures in her proposals include enabling people to travel to the UK visa-free, as they are across Europe, but suggesting that relevant documentation could be processed on arrival in the UK rather than before departure.
This came after it was unveiled that not only were hundreds of refugees being refused entry into the UK, they were also being sent to visa offices in Brussels or Paris which were not even open or accepting appointments. Most of the refugees from Ukraine are women, children or the elderly, and are incredibly vulnerable with little if any money. They are at risk of exploitation while waiting for their visa. The Home Secretary further said that they could go to Calais or Lille where no visa office exists, directly misleading refugees and Parliament.
The York Central MP has therefore set out an alternative refugee plan to help people move at pace, receive their visas in the UK, and then be quickly settled in communities, including family homes. Currently, the Government is only allowing close family members to come to the UK. However, in the light of this crisis Rachael Maskell has asked for there to be no conditionality as to who comes, as long as documentation can be administered at the UK border on arrival.
Rachael Maskell MP said,
“In writing to the Home Secretary and the Secretary of State for DLUHC, I have highlighted how 2 million displaced Ukrainian people need a safe and secure passage to the UK, not face barriers at every step along the way. These traumatised victims of war simply want a home for their families. We have seen how the Polish people are opening up their homes and communities and here in the UK we must play our part too. It is estimated that there could soon be 5 million refugees, and for the UK to put up so many barriers is disgraceful, not least making refugees travel miles to visa offices that are either not open or do not even exist.
“I know that the people of York are ambitious in wanting to support the incredible people of Ukraine. So many people have been in touch with me saying that they would open their homes to refugees. However, while the Council leadership has offered plenty of warm words about supporting refugees in our City of Sanctuary, when it comes to taking action it has brought our city to shame.
“As people from Afghanistan fled brutality, only one family has been rehomed in York, while 12,000 refugees have been left in hotels for over 6 months, including here in Yorkshire. Compared with poorer communities across Yorkshire, York only took 2 refugees per 10,000 population, compared with 23 per 10,000 in Hull and 21 per 10,000 in Bradford and Rotherham. The excuses have got to stop.
“The Council have presided over such a significant housing crisis that it cannot even home its own residents, and has used this as a reason not to support refugees. It should do both. I have also shared this letter with Michael Gove, to stress that resources must be made available to Local Authorities to ensure they have what is needed to support refugees.”