Ukraine envoy urges Britain to lift visa rules


As of Wednesday, there had been 22,000 visa applications. But the number of visas granted was just below 1,000, with the rest of the applications still being processed, reports Asian Lite News

Ukraine’s ambassador to Britain urged the government on Wednesday to suspend visa requirements for Ukrainians fleeing the war, after the UK acknowledged that fewer than 1,000 visas have been handed out so far.

Ambassador Vadym Prystaiko told lawmakers that “if you can vote for some temporary releasing of us from these rules, to allow people to get here, we will take care of (them).”

Britain’s Conservative government says it is prepared to take in hundreds of thousands of refugees from Ukraine. As of Wednesday, there had been 22,000 visa applications. But the number of visas granted was just below 1,000, with the rest of the applications still being processed.

In contrast, 2,500 Ukrainian refugees have already arrived in Ireland, whose population is a tenth of the UK’s.

Critics say Britain’s asylum system is in chaos, with reports of Ukrainians struggling to get the paperwork to let them join family and friends in Britain.

European Union nations are allowing Ukrainians to live and work for up to three years without having to go through a formal asylum-seeking process. The UK, which left the bloc last year, isn’t waiving the paperwork, saying applicants must submit biometric data for security reasons.

Ukrainians arriving at the English Channel port of Calais in France have been told to apply at British missions in Paris or Brussels, while others say they have been waiting for days for appointments at UK embassies in eastern Europe.

The British government says it is setting up a new visa center in Lille, northwest France, that will start work on Thursday. Defense Secretary Ben Wallace said Wednesday that he has offered to lend troops to the Home Office to help speed up the process.

Ukrainians based in Britain can bring over family members, including spouses, parents and children. The government has also announced a separate route for groups in the UK to sponsor Ukrainian refugees, but details of that were still being worked out.

The United Nations says more than 2 million people have fled the war in Ukraine, in what it calls Europe’s fastest-growing refugee crisis since World War II.

UK to send more anti-tank missiles

The government has said that it will be sending more weapons, specifically anti-tank missiles, to Ukraine to help the country defend itself against Russian attacks.

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace told the House of Commons that the UK would deliver 1,615 more light anti-tank missiles to add to the 2,000 already sent. A small consignment of longer-range Javelin missiles and surface-to-air missiles are also among the latest weapons supplies.

“I can update the House as of today we will have delivered 3,615 NLAWs (anti-tank missiles) and will continue to deliver more. We will shortly be starting the delivery of small consignments of anti-tank Javelin missiles as well, Wallace told members of Parliament.

“In response to a Ukrainian request, the government has taken the decision to explore the donation of Starstreak high-velocity manned portable anti-air missiles. We believe that this system will remain within the definition of defensive weapons but will allow the Ukrainian force to better defend their skies, he said.

We shall also be increasing the supplies of rations, medical equipment and other non-lethal military aid,” he added.

The minister stressed that the British government was “bound by the decision to supply defensive systems” and not escalate the war. The Russians are “changing their tactics and so the Ukrainians need to too,” he said.

In all, 14 nations have supplied arms, including Sweden and Finland, which both have a long history of neutrality and are not members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO). Germany has supplied 1,000 anti-tank weapons and 500 US-made Stinger missiles.

“We should take strength from the peoples right across Europe who are standing shoulder to shoulder to protect our values, our freedom, our tolerance, our democracy and our free press. That is our shield,” said Ben Wallace, describing the situation as Ukraine’s darkest hour.

Earlier, the US government rejected as untenable Poland’s offer to loan its MiG-29 fighter jets with the intention of them then being passed to Ukraine.

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