Ian Blackford accuses UK Government of failing to help evacuate orphans from Ukraine

Ian Blackford has accused the UK Government of failing to help evacuate orphans from Ukraine.

The SNP Westminster leader claimed 48 children were ready to feel Dnipro, but were struggling to come to Britain due to issues with the Home Office.

Speaking at Prime Minister’s Questions, Mr Blackford urged Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab to intervene.

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He said: “I have spent the last week trying to help the Scottish charity – Dnipro kids – who have evacuated 48 children from orphanages in Ukraine and are desperately attempting to provide them with temporary sanctuary in Scotland.

SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford speaks during Prime Minister's Questions in the House of Commons, London. Picture date: Wednesday March 9, 2022.

"There is a plane ready and waiting in Poland to bring these orphans to the UK on Friday, but that flight will leave empty without the necessary paperwork from the Home Office.

"The Polish authorities, Edinburgh City Council, the Scottish Government and the orphans’ guardians are all working to bring these children to safety.

"I’ve even worked well with the UK Government’s ministers to try and make this happen.

“But a week on, the Home Office is still proving to be the only obstacle in the way and it risks leaving these children stranded.

“So, I’m pleading with the Deputy Prime Minister – remove these obstructions before it is too late.”

Mr Raab insisted the delay was not about “bureaucracy” and promised to help.

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He said: “This is a heart-rending situation. We want to do everything we can.

“Of course there are a range of issues in this case, including the wishes of the Ukrainian government on where orphan children should go and should be living.

“There’s also whether any necessary permissions have been sought from the Polish or Ukrainian Government.

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“This isn't about bureaucracy, it's about genuine safeguarding issues, but I certainly want to work with him in the best interests of those children.”

Mr Blackford claimed the case went to the “heart of the failure in the UK Government’s response to the biggest refugee crisis in Europe since World War Two”.

He continued: “It is deeply concerning that that it has taken the intervention of several Ministers of State, letters to multiple European Ambassadors and the fear of this case being exposed in the Chamber to try and force movement in an urgent case, involving almost 50 vulnerable children.

"The UN is now estimating that almost one child a second is becoming a refugee from the war in Ukraine. These 48 children will not be last who need sanctuary and safety.

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“Surely the deputy Prime Minister agrees it shouldn’t have to take this level of intervention and pressure on the Home Office, for it to do right by these children?

Mr Raab replied: “It’s very important that the proper international practices on safeguarding are followed, I know he appreciates that.

“We’re keen to find out if family reunion options with Ukrainian family in the region have been considered. We also know that many children in state care in Ukraine have family members in the region – for the safeguarding and wellbeing of the children that must also be considered.”

Migration minister Kevin Foster said on Twitter the UK Government was working with the Ukrainian administration to make sure “moving children from their home region is in the best interest of the child”.