Ukraine Crisis: 'UK inflicts bureaucratic hurdles as we face biggest refugee issue since Second World War', says Angus Robertson
A leading Scottish minister has claimed the UK Government is putting up “bureaucratic hurdles” amid “the biggest refugee crisis since World War Two”.
Angus Robertson, the Scottish external affairs secretary, made the claim as Nicola Sturgeon called on the Prime Minister to offer immediate refuge and sanctuary to everyone attempting to escape the conflict.
Ms Sturgeon has said Boris Johnson’s response to the unfolding exodus following the invasion of Ukraine by Russian president Vladimir Putin has “failed” to measure up to the gravity of the situation.
The UK Government has refused to waive visas for people fleeing Ukraine over security concerns.
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However, home secretary Priti Patel confirmed more Ukrainians would be allowed to enter the UK to join family members, with a new scheme letting individuals and organisations sponsor Ukrainian refugees.
Mr Robertson, MSP for Edinburgh Central, said he welcomed this change, saying it was a “step in the right direction”. But he stressed more needed to be done.
He told BBC Good Morning Scotland on Wednesday: "There is a demand that visa requirements should be waived, so we don’t have bureaucratic hurdles in the way of refugees fleeing the worst war in Europe since the Second World War and that we are doing everything we can to assist them.”
In comparison to European Union nations that have lifted visa requirements, Mr Robertson said the UK, until Tuesday, was “doing absolutely nothing”.
Despite new changes with the sponsorship agreement, Mr Robertson said: “One can’t help but have the suspicion that this, because of the differences, because of the hurdles that have been put in place, is actually a way to manage numbers and minimise numbers just at a time when we’re needing to send a signal to people in need that we want to be there for them, we want to help them.”
Mr Robertson said his mother, who was a refugee, “wouldn’t be here today” if a similar policy towards refugee was adopted during the Second World War.
He said: "The UK Government needs to rise to the challenge and help people in their hour of need.”
It comes as Ms Patel said there was “the strongest security advice” around concerns the Russian military was infiltrating Ukrainian forces and posing a security threat to the UK.
She cited the Salisbury attack to demonstrate Mr Putin’s threat to the UK on “home soil”.
However, Mr Robertson said: "Are we really saying that women and children fleeing from conflict should not be allowed into the UK because the home secretary has concerns like that?”
The external affairs secretary said the UK should have “proper vetting” to make sure the people who seek refugee in the UK are refugees.
"Of course security considerations needs to be taken seriously,” Mr Robertson said. “But if there is a challenge, as the home secretary has mentioned, it is a challenge for all countries taking refugees in and not this British exceptionalism.”
Asked about concerns Scotland was unable to support refugees from Ukraine, with 300 Afghans remaining in temporary accommodation in the country, Mr Robertson said: “The challenge in relation to Afghan refugees is quite particular because of the nature of Afghan society and family size.
"That is not to say that we should be seeking to solve one refugee crisis at the expense of another.”