Thank you for contacting me about British support for Ukrainian nationals. I know that this is an issue about which my constituents care deeply, with some even generously offering to open their home to those who have fled the country.
I am very pleased that the British Government are leading on military and humanitarian aid to Ukraine and the Prime Minister is in daily contact with President Zelensky. I was pleased to hear from a Ukrainian friend who is fighting in Odesa that they see Britain as their No1 ally.
It has been the case that people from Ukraine can travel visa free to the EU’s Schengen area since 2017 and I appreciate the sentiment behind calls to mirror this visa free entry for those coming to the UK from Ukraine given the current situation. However, I understand that the approach that the UK Government is taking is based on the strongest security advice. While the Home Office has waived normal requirements for salary or language tests, the visa approval process allows for security and biometric checks to take place as they did for the evacuation of people from Afghanistan. The reason for this is to keep British citizens safe, particularly as Russian troops are now infiltrating Ukraine and merging into Ukrainian forces.
Unfortunately, we know all too well what Putin is willing to do, as we saw through the Salisbury attack and the nerve agents used on the streets of the UK. I am encouraged that the UK has increased its visa processing capacity in the region ten-fold in anticipation of increased demand.
The Ukrainian Family Scheme which allows family members of British nationals, UK settled persons and certain others to come or stay in the UK and those already in the UK can either extend their visa or switch to another immigration route, where eligible, even if their visa does not normally allow them to do so. Guidance on the support available to Ukrainian nationals and their family members can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/support-for-family-members-of-british-nationals-in-ukraine-and-ukrainian-nationals-in-ukraine-and-the-uk
'Homes for Ukraine' scheme has now been launched and Hampshire County Council will be sorting this out locally. For information on how to record your interest in the scheme, please search: https://homesforukraine.campaign.gov.uk/
I have been urging Ministers to speed up the process for Ukrainians who wish to come here or who have family ties here. However, most do not want to move too far from Ukraine because they want their own homes back and many have had to leave their male relations behind to fight. It is also vital that we support the front-line states such as Poland, who inevitably bear the brunt because they are closest to the crisis. We have been asked by both Ukraine and Poland to send money rather than goods and you can donate through the Disaster Emergency Committee which will directly give the money to charities working there. This will also help the local economy as the money will be spent on food, goods and housing in the countries most affected.
Many constituents across Meon Valley have registered their interest in housing Ukrainian refugees and donating money. It has been heart-warming to see people’s compassion in these dark times.