Nicola Sturgeon has called on the UK Government to “open our doors” to refugees fleeing Ukraine amid the Russian invasion of the country.
The First Minister says difficulties facing those seeking sanctuary in the UK are “unconscionable and indefensible” as she urged Westminster to follow the example of European nations.
Speaking during a visit to the Ukrainian Club, where she watched donations of food and supplies being packed, Sturgeon also said the current situation facing those fleeing the Russian invasion is “beyond unacceptable”.
She said: “I am calling again on the UK government to open the doors of the UK, we have already opened our hearts to Ukraine, we now need to open the doors.
“The situation where the UK is making people fleeing the war and seeking refuge jump through bureaucratic hoops is indefensible.
“Other countries are not doing that, and the UK government needs to make it much easier for people to get here so that we can provide the sanctuary and the refuge that people across the country want to do.
“We should do what Ireland is doing, which is removing visa requirements, allowing people to come in and then doing the paperwork.
“You know, we talk about that in the UK as if it would be us doing something unprecedented.
“Actually, the UK is the exception right now.”
Ukrainians fleeing the Russian invasion can enter the European Union without a visa and live there for three years, but if they want to come to the UK, they have to either have relatives here already and apply for a family visa, or have a British sponsor for their visa application.
Meanwhile, the First Minister said she is planning a “refugee programme” that would provide people with support and match them with suitable accommodation.
The Scottish Refugee Council will work with the Holyrood Government to help implement the proposals.
She also revealed that she has asked Michael Gove, the UK’s intergovernmental relations minister, to “open the doors” to Ukrainians and “get away from this unconscionable and indefensible situation where people are having to jump through bureaucratic hoops in order to get here”.
She said: “I’ve heard from one Ukrainian living here in Scotland right now, trying to get family members here and they have just met a wall of bureaucracy, been asked questions that someone fleeing a war-zone will never be able to answer and for proof of things that they were never going to be able to provide.
“People who have completed an arduous journey, to get to Poland, expecting and hoping to then get to come to the UK to join family here and instead finding it impossible.
“And that is unconscionable given what we are looking at just now, it is beyond unacceptable.”
Boris Johnson has resisted calls from Kyiv and within his own party to drop visa requirements for Ukrainians fleeing the violence, insisting the security checks were vital to prevent Vladimir Putin sending agents to the UK.
The Prime Minister said a thousand visas had been granted under the scheme allowing relatives of people in Britain to flee the war zone to join their families and he promised another programme allowing individuals to offer a home to Ukrainians would be set out in “the next few days”.
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