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World News

Bishop of Southwark criticises Governments handling of Ukrainian refugees

by Sophie Drew

The Bishop of Southwark has called on the UK Government to list visa restrictions for refugees fleeing Ukraine amid the Russian invasion.

Russian forces entered Ukraine five days ago, but only those with family, or 'special circumstances', are able to seek asylum within the UK.

Rt Revd Christopher Chessun's comments regarding Ukrainian refugees come as the Government faces increased scrutiny about the Nationality and Borders Bill - draft legislation currently making it's way through Parliamentary processes. 

According to a 1,000 faith leaders, the bill will make it harder for those genuinely seeking asylum to be able to enter the country and would "close the door" on people desperately fleeing for their lives. 

During a visit to the Cathedral of the Holy Family - a Ukrainian place of worship based in London - the Prime Minister announced that Ukrainian refugees with family members based in the UK would be able to enter. 

However, Rev Chessun argues that the move doesn't go far enough, saying: "The Prime Minister's words over the weekend about generous provision for refugees fleeing Ukraine, will remain rhetoric unless matched by immediate changes in Government policy to lift significant visa restrictions.  

"The resilience of the Ukrainian people in the face of the Russian assault on the territorial integrity of a sovereign democratic European nation is giving inspiration and hope across the continent.  

"Nevertheless, this shocking act of aggression is unleashing a humanitarian crisis and forcing hundreds of thousands of Ukrainian nationals- including large numbers of women and children- to flee from their homes and seek safe refuge elsewhere in Europe.

 "Under the present law it is illegal for a Ukrainian national to fly to the UK without a visa. 

"This makes it impossible for many who are fleeing the conflict to come legally to the UK to apply for asylum. 

"Applying for the available visa routes, will be difficult for a great many desperate people. 

"Other countries including the Republic of Ireland- have waived this visa requirement. 
"Our first responsibility is to respond with compassion and help to those who need it. 

"A temporary waiver would be an effective means of showing our support for the people of Ukraine.
"With other members of the Lords Spiritual, I have raised concerns about the Government's Nationality and Borders Bill, including the provision, to deem inadmissible those asylum seekers who arrive in the UK without a visa. 

"The events in Ukraine show why this aspect of the Bill is problematic. 

"In extreme and emergency circumstances, it is not always possible for those seeking asylum to follow the narrow route permitted by this Bill. 

"The Government should think again about how our asylum system meets the need of situations like that unfolding in Ukraine. 

"It is imperative that we make more generous provision and do so promptly."

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