The Current Crisis
Not surprisingly I have been inundated with emails from constituents rightly concerned about the situation in Ukraine and the ruthless aggression by the Russian military. Many people have asked what practical help they can give with many generously offering accommodation to refugee families. Others have expressed frustration that NATO should be taking direct military action and some people have been critical of the response by the Home Office in particular in responding to the crisis. With this bulletin therefore I will try to cover all those areas and more and will continue to post updates as more information and guidance becomes available in this fast-moving situation.
West Sussex already hosts residents and visiting workers from Ukraine, Russia, Poland and other impacted countries. Our thoughts and our prayers are with them at this time. To be clear, it is Putin’s actions that we condemn, not the people of Russia who are also victims of this situation. I recently spoke to a number of Ukrainian constituents to hear their take on the situation from their friends and family still in Ukraine, and what practical support they are asking for. I have reported back to ministers with that information and have challenged the Home Secretary, Defence Secretary and others in the Chamber of the House of Commons. There have been other events across Adur and Worthing where local people have come out to show their solidarity with the people of Ukraine.
In addition, we recently heard directly from the Ukrainian Ambassador and refugee groups in front on the Home Affairs Select Committee, and many of you will have seen the historic and moving address by the Ukrainian President by video link to MPs on the 8th of March. We are holding regular meetings with the newly appointed Ukrainian Refugees Minister, to question further.
I fully support the extensive actions the Government has taken in support of Ukraine, and the Prime Minister has been at the forefront of rallying western nations to impose the historically most extensive sanctions against Russia and Belarus ever seen. In addition, we have now given more humanitarian aid than any other country and the provision of high-grade military kit made more effective by months of training Ukrainian forces by our own military over many months before the conflict started
The UK has sanctioned more Russian banks involving more assets than any other European country and led on international moves to alienate Russia from extensive financial systems like SWIFT. This is only the start and we have seen how quickly the impact is being felt in Moscow with empty supermarket shelves, empty cash dispensers and bans on selling the rouble which has almost halved.
Be in no doubt, that all these measures combined represent the biggest set of actions against a hostile nation ever, barring committing to direct military conflict which obviously remains a possibility if Putin continues to refuse to heed the warnings of the rest of the world from which he has become very largely isolated.
The Government Response
As the crisis in Ukraine continues, both the British people and government are doing all that they can to help those in desperate need of aid and shelter.
- The UK has recently pledged an extra £100m in aid, UK now the largest bilateral humanitarian donor to Ukraine.
- Builds on earlier announcement of $100m (£74m) cash injection into Ukraine’s economy and takes UK total offer of support to the current Ukraine crisis to around £400 million.
- ‘International Ukraine Support Group’ will coordinate the global community to deliver long-term support for Ukraine.
- New initiative follows the Prime Minister’s six point ‘plan of action’ for the international community to ensure Putin fails in his ambitions.
- Defensive weapons have been sent to Ukraine, including anti tank and anti aircraft weaponry. The NLAW short-range anti-tank weapons have proved particularly effective against Russian tanks and are now being backed up with Starstreak anti-aircraft systems to use against lethal Russian air power inflicting such heavy destruction.
- The Economic Crime Bill introduced last Monday gives the Uk Government historic powers to sanction key Russian officials and oligarchs, confiscate their property and attack the use of London markets for ‘dirty Russian money.’ Over 800 Russian nationals and some from Belarus have now been sanctioned, subject to confiscations and travel bans. This extends to over 400 members of the Russian Duma and high-profile Putin allies like Roman Abramovich.
- Defence Secretary Ben Wallace has been particularly effective in rallying other Western nations to up their defence spend and provide kit and ammunition to the Ukrainian army.
The new initiative – the International Ukraine Support Group – will bring together global partners committed to ensuring strong political, humanitarian, economic and defence support for Ukraine.
The group will mobilise international allies to coordinate and reinvigorate assistance to Ukraine - likely to be tested over time – to ensure efforts are sustained in the long-term. The trio will encourage more countries to join and the UK will be raising this with their partners.
141 countries recently voted to condemn Putin’s war at the historic UN General Assembly vote. 39 countries – including the UK, Canada and the Netherlands - joined the largest referral to the International Criminal Court in history to expedite an investigation.
The UK, Canada and The Netherlands have been leading the way in their response to Ukraine’s requests for help including issuing punitive sanctions and providing defensive military equipment.
At the same time, the UK is now the largest bilateral humanitarian donor to Ukraine. After committing a further £100m in aid in early March, to Ukraine to save lives, protect vulnerable people inside the country and in the wider region and to tackle the growing humanitarian crisis. It will provide basic necessities including medical supplies.
It takes UK total offer of support to the current Ukraine crisis to around £400 million.
If you are Ukrainian and need help obtaining a UK visa for a family member who has fled the conflict and made it to Hungary, Poland, Moldova or Romania, please do not hesitate to seek my assistance. I am not aware that we have a substantial Ukrainian community in Adur and Worthing, but we have already taken up some specific cases for family members.
You can apply here: https://www.gov.uk/.../apply-for-a-ukraine-family-scheme...
The Ukraine Family Visa scheme has been updated (in close consultation with the Ukrainian government and diaspora community) so that from Tuesday March 15th, Ukrainians with passports can get permission to come here online and give their biometrics once in Britain, meaning they no longer need to physically visit Visa Application Centres, which can focus efforts on helping those without passports. So far over 30,000 people have applied and approximately 5000 visas had been successfully issued and that rate is accelerating and not before time.
I have been calling for necessary checks to be carried out in the UK rather than in the chaos of the borders with Ukraine and at least the situation has been made easier by facilitating applications online rather than having to travel great distances to a UK visa office. Whilst security checks for the mostly women and children seeking to come to the UK need only be minimal, I do support the issuing of visas so that we know exactly who is coming to the UK and how we can best support them, but this process should be as streamlined as possible. I will be monitoring the new system when it comes online and feeding back any problems reported to me to make improvements if necessary.
Overall, it is estimated that the Ukrainian community in the Uk amounts to some 50,000 – 60,000 people and it is highly likely that they will want to offer accommodation and help to family members wherever possible, so that offers from the public can be concentrated on those without direct UK family connections. The view of the Ambassador, which I share, is that the many women and children and elderly folk who have come across the border having had to leave husbands, sons and fathers behind will want to stay as close to Ukraine as possible in the hope of early reunification and a return home. In which case the numbers coming to the UK could be in the tens of thousands rather than hundreds of thousands. Though, if the conflict is a protracted one then obviously that could change.
Unlike many Syrian and Afghan refugees who may find it much harder to return home and will be in the Uk for the long haul, the Ukrainian Ambassador hoped that they will be able to return home soon and will certainly want to do that. For those who do come to the UK they will be able to work legitimately, access health and education services and be given money to live, no doubt supported by many local community networks who want to extend a warm welcome, quite rightly.
Full advice on UK visa support for Ukrainian nationals is available here:
A Ukrainian-language advice sheet for refugees is available here:
Ukrainian Sponsorship Scheme
The details of the new scheme whereby people can offer accommodation to Ukrainian families was set out on Monday March 14th and will be led by the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities. Essentially people will be asked to commit to offering rooms/annexes/spare flats etc on initially a 6-month basis and will receive £350 per month to help with that. The refugees will be given money for subsistence directly and local authorities will be given over £10,500 per family to provide support. People qualifying under this scheme are likely to start arriving from this Friday and I have asked for the Government to charter planes to help with the transport or allow our military planes delivering aid to come back full of people.
Refugees will be given full access to social care, healthcare, Universal Credit and the right to seek work.
There are national charities such as Refugees at Home (Refugees At Home – Refugees At Home) which already operate in this area and they will be working closely with the central government scheme.
To register your interest or for more information, please follow this link: https://homesforukraine.campaign.gov.uk/
There is a new founded group on Facebook for Adur based households who are looking to take on refugees. If you are considering doing so, please do sign up to share advice, ideas and input: https://www.facebook.com/groups/537548351008755/about
What happens after you have registered interest?
Incoming refugees will have met standard security checks against the police national computer database and antiterrorism checks as part of the visa application process. Similarly, sponsors and all adults in the sponsor household will be subject to standard security checks as part of the visa process. Your council will also visit you to check that the accommodation you are offering is appropriate and that everything is in place for your guest(s). They will also conduct a Disclosure and Barring Service check on all adults in your household. This is typically required for people who work closely with children and vulnerable adults – teachers, doctors, social workers, civil servants – and is a simple, standard safety check. You will receive a certificate valid for two years. These checks and the process will be expedited. For those who are sponsoring a Ukrainian family which includes a child or a vulnerable adult, an enhanced Disclosure and Barring Service check with Barred Lists check will be conducted.
Making Donations and Sending Aid
As things have developed in Ukraine, the Government strongly recommends that wherever possible, organisations and people who would like to help donate cash rather than donating goods, through the Disasters and Emergencies Committee campaign and other trusted charities and humanitarian aid organisations. Cash can be transferred quickly to areas where it’s needed, and individuals and aid organisations can use it to buy what’s most needed. The Government has offered to match-fund donations to the Disasters and Emergencies Committee campaign up to £25m on top of its existing financial aid package. Polish authorities as well as the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) have reiterated this.
The Government is also aware that some communities have put great time and effort into gathering goods to support those battling for survival in Ukraine. To ensure that this does not go to waste, a customs easement is now in place making it easier to move aid and donations to help the people of Ukraine.
The simplification of customs processes will apply specifically to goods intended to support those affected by the humanitarian crisis in Ukraine which are exported from Great Britain. Provided the goods are not exported to, or through, Russia or Belarus, then these simplified processes apply to qualifying goods regardless of the destination to allow maximum flexibility to get aid to where the need is greatest.
Please follow the link for further information: https://www.gov.uk/.../customs-easement-to-help-ukraine...
Ukrainians travelling to the UK:
Several travel companies are offering free travel to get to the UK:
• The airline Wizz Air is supporting Ukrainian nationals by offering 100,000 free seats on flights from Ukraine’s border countries (Poland, Slovakia, Hungary and Romania). They are also offering €29.99 rescue fares on flights from other locations (excluding the UAE, Iceland and the Canaries, which are €69.99). Find out more on the Wizz Air website.
• Eurostar is offering free tickets to help Ukrainian nationals travel from any Eurostar station to London St Pancras International. Individuals who have been granted a valid visa to enter the UK can show this together with their Ukrainian passport to a member of the Eurostar team at Paris Nord, Brussels-Midi, Lille Europe, Rotterdam Central or Amsterdam Central stations, and they will issue a ticket for travel to London. Find out more on the Eurostar website.
For Ukrainians already in the UK, please see the Home Office guidance on visa support here: https://www.gov.uk/.../ukrainian-nationals-in-the-uk-visa...
For Ukrainians arriving in the UK, The Red Cross have published this guidance leaflet with helpful advice and details on support services and other applications.
If you are organising an event or appeal in support of Ukraine, please contact me at email@example.com and I will add details to this page.
Show your support on social media:
Please tag your posts #StandWithUkraine to show your support as part of a global online movement.
I appreciate that this bulletin is longer than it is usually, but wanted to be as thorough as possible and please do not hesitate to contact me directly if there is more information you need.