Durham stands with Ukraine
Durham stands with Ukraine

Mary has today written to the Home Secretary, Priti Patel, to ask for clarification on the family migration visa for Ukrainians fleeing from the Russian invasion.  

This comes after the Home Secretary was widely criticised for the scheme which allows for immediate relatives of British citizens to apply to reside in Britain if they are fleeing war in Ukraine. The scheme, however, is limited to immediate family members, therefore discounting nieces, nephews, grandparents and other extended family members from applying for refuge in the UK – which has led to Mary being contacted by concerned constituents following reports of Ukrainian children being unable to seek refuge in Durham with family members.  

Writing in the letter Mary states: 

“Many of us have heard from siblings of parents, nephews, nieces, cousins, grandparents and grandchildren and I am acutely aware that there are cases of Ukrainian children travelling through Europe to join with family members in the UK. We cannot simply turn a blind eye to extended family members because they do not meet Home Office criteria.” 

Members of the Government have rightly said that they would do “everything they can” to support Ukrainians. Mary’s letter seeks, therefore, to ensure that Ukrainian people who request our assistance are aided.  

Indeed, the Home Secretary has today come under fire for announcing a set of supposed ‘new’ measures for visas for Ukrainian people. Speaking in the Commons today, Patel announced the UK would welcome 100,000 more Ukrainian refugees, however she did not reveal whether the criteria for visas would be expanded past immediate family. This uncertainty will leave many travelling from Ukraine understandably anxious as to whether they will be able to find refuge with family members in our country.  

Commenting on the letter Mary said  

“It is undeniable that the solidarity from British people has been felt by those in Ukraine and those fleeing war. Britain has a proud history of helping refugees in times of war, however in recent years nationalist bravado has been prioritised over helping those that need it most. It’s clear that the Government have no plans to waive visas for Ukrainians, so they must expand the current criteria to encompass extended family as a minimum.” 

Full text of Mary’s letter can be found below:

Dear Home Secretary,

 

I am writing to you regarding the Home Office’s family visa scheme for Ukrainians that are fleeing from the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

 

As you will already be aware, the new visa announcements from the Government mean that Ukrainians will be granted a visa to stay in the UK if they have relatives who are British nationals. I note that the guidance given for the family migration visa states that a British family member must be one of the following:

– Spouse or civil partner

– Unmarried partner (living together for at least 2 years)

– Parent (if you are under the age of 18)

– Child under the age of 18

– Adult relative to whom you provide care for

(https://www.gov.uk/guidance/support-for-family-members-of-british-nationals-in-ukraine-and-ukrainian-nationals-in-ukraine-and-the-uk#full-publication-update-history)

 

It is clear that the parameters of this visa must be expanded in order for us to welcome as many Ukrainian refugees who have British family members as possible. There is no reason why we should not be offering visas to Ukrainians with British family members who are not classed as immediate family.

 

Many of us have heard from siblings of parents, nephews, nieces, cousins, grandparents and grandchildren and I am acutely aware that there are cases of Ukrainian children travelling through Europe to join with family members in the UK. We cannot simply turn a blind eye to extended family members because they do not meet Home Office criteria.

 

The Defence Secretary said the Government would do “everything [it] can” to support Ukrainians.

 

I urge you to do the right thing to help Ukrainians seeking refuge and safety. If the Government will not waive visas for Ukrainians, it must expand the parameters of the family migration visa to encompass extended family as a minimum. I welcome the announced plans to settle an extra 100,000 refugees in the UK, but we need clarity as soon as possible.

 

Ukrainians are already fleeing one hostile environment; they should not be met by another during what are likely to be the darkest days of their lives.

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