People queue up outside the Overseas Visitors Records Office in London, UK, on March 8, 2022| Photo: EPA/Andy Rain
People queue up outside the Overseas Visitors Records Office in London, UK, on March 8, 2022| Photo: EPA/Andy Rain

Great Britain has granted roughly 72,000 visas to displaced Ukrainias, but only about 21,000 refugees have entered the country thus far. Home Secretary Priti Patel claims that's because many have chosen not to move to the UK.

UK Home Secretary Priti Patel defended her government's handling of Ukraine refugees in the House of Commons on Monday (April 25), after opposition members raised the matter on the sidelines of a debate on immigration policy.

Patel said that the gap between the number of visas granted and the number of refugees who actually arrived in the UK could be attributed to a slowdown in the flow of arrivals reported over the last weeks after Russian forces pulled back from the region of Kyiv and other areas. Many refugees and families have chosen for the moment to remain in the region, according to reports by the Ukrainian government, as they await developments and a possible return home, noted Patel.

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UK hosts far fewer Ukrainian refugees than other Western European countries

According to data released recenty, the number of Ukrainians who have received visas is much smaller than the number of people who have arrived in the UK -- which is also much smaller than the number of Ukrainians hosted by other large Western European nations.

A reported 72,000 visas have been granted to displaced Ukrainians fleeing the Russian invasion by the United Kingdom (UK), according to figures released last Thursday (April 21). However, the total number of people from Ukraine who have actually entered the UK does not exceed 21,000. For comparison: Italy has taken in around 100,000 refugees from Ukraine, and Germany hosts over 300,000.

Opposition: UK refugee policy to slow, restrictive

Politicians from the opposition and refugee advocates have repeatedly criticized the Tory government's handling of the Ukraine refugee crisis, saying that processes to grant visas were too slow and restrictive, and that the government took too long to agree on a policy to help people fleeing Ukraine.

Read More: Hesitant UK plans to help Ukraine refugees are met with criticism and ire

On Monday, Stuart McDonald of the Scottish National Party (SNP) claimed in the House of Commons that low number of Ukrainian refugees in the UK was due to "the unnecessary, inappropriate and shambolic visa system that the Home Secretary has decided to impose." That's according to a report by Scottish daily The National. He added: "Approximately 140 other countries allow visa-free access. Surely even at this late stage she must lift visa requirements for all or at least some Ukrainians fleeing Putin’s war and get things moving."

Patel defends her policy: "We are not members of the EU"

The Home Secretary defended her cabinet's visa policy, saying that "we are not members of the EU, we do not have open borders" and that "in this particular case vital security checks are very important," The National reported.

While EU countries do not require people fleeing Ukraine to have visas to cross their borders, the UK's government has designed two special schemes to grant people fleeing Ukraine visas, which largely require them to have a host lined up in the UK. One scheme is designed for those who have family members already living in the country while the other promises fast procedures for anyone who is invited by an NGO, local communities or families who are willing to provide hospitality.


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