Politicians that welcome refugees from Ukraine are the same that want to shut others out
The fallout of the Ukraine war is exposing the hypocrisy of the Tories and governments across Europe over refugees.
Up to three million Ukrainians could attempt to escape the country in upcoming weeks. As of last weekend, only Ukrainians with British citizen family members could freely apply for sanctuary in Britain.
The Tories were forced to concede on this, having previously refused to relax visa restrictions. But they still made it difficult for Ukrainians to come to Britain. Their main visa application centre in Kiev has been shut. A centre for family members of British nationals remained open in the city of Lviv, over 350 miles away.
The narrow definition of family member included a spouse or civil partner, an unmarried partner who has cohabitated for at least two years, and some parents.
Some temporary measures were put in place to extend visas for Ukrainians in Britain whose visas will soon expire. Standard visas, which cost up to £95 for six months, were also open, but did not include fleeing war among the list of acceptable reasons for applying. And these are only granted if applicants plan to return home after six months.
Longer visit visas were available—but can cost from £361 for two years to £822 for ten. That’s on top of fast‑track, processing and appointment fees. The government did not waive fees for family members of non-British citizens living in Britain, or those who can’t afford them.
The Labour Party made a show of expressing outrage against Boris Johnson and home secretary Priti Patel for not relaxing restrictions further for Ukrainian refugees. But it doesn’t extend its outrage to the Nationality and Borders bill currently going through parliament that seeks to make it harder for refugees to enter Britain.
It’s just one example of how the crisis is exposing the hypocrisy and double standards of Europe’s border controls. Africans and other international citizens in Ukraine have found themselves being blocked from leaving the country.
Around 24 Jamaican students who arrived in Lviv from Kharkiv in Ukraine were forced to walk 12 miles to Poland. They were blocked from a bus carrying students to Poland.
Poland is being applauded for allowing Ukrainian refugees in, without restrictions, documentation or visas, unlike Britain. But for months its border has blocked refugees from across the Middle East trying to cross from Belarus, leaving them to freeze to death in forests.
In Britain, the Tories could be forced into concessions and into relaxing some rules to allow more refugees in. This goes against their determination to make Britain as hostile as possible to migrants and refugees. And it contradicts their anti-refugee Borders and Nationality Bill
But already the partial U-turn is more than Syrian, Iraqi, Afghan, Somali, Yemeni and other refugees fleeing Britain’s wars have experienced. The Tories’ hypocrisy will also be on display if boats of “undocumented” Ukrainian refugees begin to cross the Channel.
Anti-racists must demand the Tories open the borders to everyone who wants to come to Britain—wherever they’re from, and whatever their reason.