UK fails its ‘grand statements’ on Ukraine refugees: Macron
The FrenchPresident accuses the United Kingdom of failing to live up to its reputation of leading the world in aiding war victims.
Emmanuel Macron slammed Boris Johnson's government for making Ukrainian refugees unwanted in the UK amid its claims of being the world leader in aiding war victims.
The French President was scathing about Johnson's approach to people fleeing from Ukraine as he spoke at the close of an EU summit in Versailles.
He claimed that the British government had added to the anguish of men, women, and children by requiring visa applications to be submitted in person in Brussels and Paris.
Macron charged that the British administration had failed to follow through on its "big declarations". "I hope the Ukrainian men and women who have endured tragedy and crossed Europe to meet their families on British soil will be treated better," he said.
The EU declared on Friday in a Versailles declaration that it will "provide temporary protection to all conflict refugees from Ukraine," with the UK practically alone in Europe insisting that even those with relatives in the country should apply for visas.
Priti Patel, US Home Secretary, had stated until Thursday that in-person security checks at application centers were also required to prevent what she called "Russian spies or terrorists" from slipping themselves into the UK.
Patel modified her decision on Thursday in the face of mounting pressure from MPs across the Commons, declaring that online applications would be available starting next Tuesday. Macron, on the other hand, said the British government needed to do more, citing the fact that more than 2 million people have already fled Ukraine, with millions more predicted.
"I appreciate the British shift, which demonstrates there was a problem, notwithstanding what was asserted at the time," he remarked. Nobody would have guessed that, despite all of our great promises, the British government continued to enforce present laws, which meant that Ukrainian refugees who wanted to reach British soil were denied entry, claiming that they would have to travel hundreds of kilometers to apply for a visa.
“Obviously we will do what we can and we are trying to cut back on the red tape so they can reach more dignified living conditions. I would like to thank the UK government for this first step and we will over the coming day see whether it is enough or whether more effective measures are required.”
UK demands visas for refugees
Out of at least 22,000 visa applications pending, the UK has only awarded 957 visas so far. The requirement of in-person applications wreaked havoc in Calais earlier this week when Patel erroneously reported that a visa center had opened.
Refugees who had traveled 1,400 miles (2,250 kilometers) to the English Channel were greeted with UK government posters reminding them that they needed to submit their applications in Paris or Brussels. Later, a minister explained that the application center in Calais was still being set up, causing Tory MP Roger Gale to call for Patel's resignation for deceiving the House of Commons.
Read more: Discrimination against foreigners trying to flee Ukraine: HRW
The UK's Ukraine family plan permits British nationals' Ukrainian relatives to stay in the country after completing a visa application. Refugees who can find a private sponsor or a local government prepared to provide housing and integration assistance can stay for a year.
All Ukrainian refugees, on the other hand, have the right to reside and work in the EU for at least a year, and potentially up to three years, under EU rules. Ukrainian citizens already have visa-free travel to the EU for 90 days.
"Indeed, we welcome this improvement for the Ukrainian refugees, this is a good step in the absolute right direction," European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen told reporters in Versailles.
“As you know we in the European Union already a week ago activated the temporary protection directive for the very first time in the history of the EU, which gives all Ukrainians immediate residency rights, access to the labor market, to schools, to medical care, to other support, so that these poor people can find a home and be accommodated in the European Union.”