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Letter calls for more to be done for refugees

Biddulph MP Karen Bradley is one of five Staffordshire MPs to have signed a letter calling on the the government to do more to assist Ukrainian refugees feeling their country.

The letter said: “We urge the UK government to provide as much support as possible to our European partners,” (ITALICS writes local democracy reporter Richard Price). “We need sincere and immediate support for the Ukrainian people.”

There have been two weeks of bloodshed in Ukraine after Russian forces invaded the country on the orders of president Vladimir Putin.

While the UK Government has imposed some sanctions on Russia as a result of the conflict, it has come under criticism for not being more generous in accepting Ukrainian refugees.

The MPs’ letter read: “We, on behalf of the One Nation Caucus, are extremely proud that our Government is leading the way in deepening economic sanctions against President Putin, Russian state-owned organisations and those closest to him and their assets.

“Alongside our continued provision to Ukraine of defensive military equipment and supplies, including medical supplies, this should make clear that democracies stick together for freedom against invasion.”

It continued: “Though it may be the case that the Ukrainian people hold back Russian forces from the heart of Ukraine for now, we cannot leave the Ukrainian people in any doubt that their allies stand behind them in every meaningful way.

“We recognise that those fleeing their country do so out of fear for their lives and escape from Russian forces’ bombardments.”

The One Nation Caucus, which the letter represents, is a socially liberal wing of the Conservative Party and is thought to include around 100 MPs in total.

The group said the UK’s announcement on lifting some visa criteria was a “first step,” but added that the Government needed to act with other European countries and share responsibility with them.

It said: “We need to act now, and we need to act decisively.

“We urge the UK Government to provide as much support as possible to our European partners who are currently the first safe havens for Ukrainian refugees – namely, Poland, Moldova, Romania, Hungary and Slovakia.

“We also hope our ministers will seek a flexible and pragmatic approach to those Ukrainians wishing to seek temporary refuge in the UK until it is safe to return to their lives in their home country.”

The letter concluded: “It is clear that this is not another migration crisis; this is a crisis of war.

“This should not be business as usual, we need sincere and immediate support for the Ukrainian people.

“The United Kingdom cannot flag or fail, our message must be clear: Ukrainian victims of war seeking refuge are welcome.” It was signed by 44 MPs. The others from Staffordshire were Aaron Bell (Newcastle-Under-Lyme), Michael Fabricant (Lichfield), Jo Gideon (Stoke Central) and Kate Griffiths (Burton and Uttoxeter).

The UK has lagged behind the rest of Europe in offering visas. Ireland scrapped visa requirements for Ukrainians as war broke out and the EU offering the right to settle for three years without applying for asylum.

In the UK, immigration minister Kevin Foster suggesting in a soon-deleted tweet that refugees could get visas if they secured fruit-picking jobs, followed by an announcement from prime minister Boris Johnson that Ukrainians living in Britain could apply for some relatives to join them, meaning only refugees who could prove they had relatives could get a visa. UK firms will also be able to sponsor a Ukrainian entering the country.

• Local Lib Dems have said the Government must not repeat the mistakes it made with the Afghan Citizens’ Resettlement Scheme.

Spokesperson Alec Sandiford said: “One of the crucial flaws of the scheme was the Government’s failure to involve local authorities in the design and development of the scheme, and to give them the funding they need.

“Local councils are critical to the success of refugee resettlement, and they are already under enormous financial pressure, so the Government must not repeat that failure when it comes to resettling Ukrainian refugees.

“The Government should work closely with local authorities to develop a resettlement scheme for Ukrainian refugees, including a full five-year funding package for each and every person a council resettles.”

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