France has urged Britain to do more to help Ukrainian refugees trying to come to the UK from Calais, as Justice Secretary Dominic Raab has defended visa rules for those fleeing the conflict .
French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said on Sunday it was “inhumane” for the UK to refuse refugees arriving in the French port city if they did not have a valid visa.
He said he had asked Home Secretary Priti Patel to establish a consular presence there.
Mr Darmanin told Europe 1 radio: “I called my British counterpart twice.
“I asked him to create a consulate in Calais which could process people’s papers and issue visas.”
Hundreds of Ukrainian refugees in Calais have been advised by British authorities to obtain visas from British consulates in Paris or Brussels, Mr Darmanin said, calling it “a bit inhumane” to expect that they come all the way after their long journey from Ukraine. .
“The Brits need to put their rhetoric into action, I heard the great words of generosity from Mr (Boris) Johnson,” Mr Darmanin said.
“I hope this will allow the English to open their arms a little and stop the technocratic nitpicking”.
But Home Secretary Priti Patel said no one had been turned away.
“And I think it’s really important to highlight that, especially at this time, when all the nations of Europe need to work together to help and support people in need and fleeing Ukraine at this horrific time. “
The Home Secretary said it was ‘wrong to say that we send people back, we don’t’.
She added: “I have staff in Calais to provide support to Ukrainian families who have left Ukraine to come to the UK. This is wrong and it is incorrect to say that we are not providing support on the pitch. We are.”
Asked earlier about reports that 150 Ukrainian refugees had been turned away in Calais, Mr Raab suggested that support for Ukraine would be jeopardized if the UK let refugees in without visas.
The justice secretary told the BBC’s Sunday morning show: ‘If we just open the door, not only are we not going to benefit the people we need, the genuine refugees, but I think we are undermining the popular support for this very thing, so I don’t think it’s the right thing to do. We need to make sure we are doing things for those who need our support.
During security checks, he told ITV News: ‘I think we’re doing the right thing in the right way. We wondered if we should have security checks.
“These are people who come from a war zone. It is only right, given the foreign fighters who are there alongside the Russians, that we ensure that we have security checks precisely so that our generosity is directed to those who deserve our compassion, and not to those who might seek to harm us. ”
Mr Raab said he expects up to 200,000 Ukrainians could come to the UK through the family dependent route, while “the humanitarian route, which is not capped “.
He said: “We will work with the United Nations and other agencies, but also individuals, companies, charitable sponsors here, and this route for Ukrainians fleeing persecution is uncapped. And of course we’ve provided £220 million in humanitarian aid, which goes directly to the people of Ukraine, but also to countries hosting refugees.
“You find that in conflict situations, most people want to leave…either stay in their country of birth and origin, or go to a neighboring country, so they can come back later. I think we can expect that with Ukraine.
Asked by ITV News presenter Nina Hossain if the government should make it as easy as it was for his father, who fled Nazi Czechoslovakia, to come to the UK, the Deputy Prime Minister said: ” I don’t need to be lectured by you about what my father went through.
“You are talking about something you know little about. It was incredibly difficult for my father to travel to the UK.
Under the UK’s recently expanded visa scheme, Ukrainians whose parents, grandparents, children and siblings are already in the UK are allowed to stay for up to three years.
The offer does not match that of EU countries, which have waived visa rules for Ukrainian refugees, letting them in for up to three years without having to apply for asylum first.
More than 1.5 million refugees have already left Ukraine, the United Nations said as Russia’s unprovoked assault on the country entered its eleventh day on Sunday.
UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi tweeted: “More than 1.5 million Ukrainian refugees have crossed into neighboring countries in 10 days – the fastest growing refugee crisis in Europe since the Second World War”.