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The UK's Ukrainian refugee scheme does not go far enough

March 20, 2022 12:07 PM
Originally published by UK Liberal Democrats

My trip to Eastern Poland, where I spent time meeting refugees fleeing Ukraine and the charities supporting them, was harrowing.

I witnessed firsthand the very human consequences of this war.

Although I've watched the scenes of Ukrainians fleeing their homes from my television screen, it was a completely different experience speaking to these families in person. I witnessed firsthand the very human consequences of this war. Families with their belongings stuffed in plastic bags. Children clutching their teddy bears as they arrived at the train station. Exhausted cats and dogs being held by their families who couldn't bear to leave them behind in Ukraine.

And it was heartbreaking to hear their stories. One woman, Marta, showed us a video of her block of flats in Kharkiv being bombed just the night before. Masha broke down in tears when I asked about her husband. He had stayed behind in Ukraine to fight, as she travelled to safety with their two boys. Yulia told me how Putin was bombing supermarkets in her hometown. "Why bomb the supermarkets?" she kept asking. I didn't have an answer for her.

But there were so many people on the ground, ready to help. We spent the day with Natasza, who works for Caritas International. Originally from Poland, Natasza took development studies at university - but she never imagined her first humanitarian mission would be in her home country. At the Medyka border crossing, there were countless tents set up by volunteers, offering free SIM cards, food, warm drinks and clothing. We met volunteers from all over: American aid workers, French paramedics, even a Scotsman in a kilt!

I feel optimism thanks to the generosity I've witnessed here, but I also feel ashamed. Ashamed of the Conservative Government's appallingly slow and cold-hearted response.

I feel optimism thanks to the generosity I've witnessed here, but I also feel ashamed. Ashamed of the Conservative Government's appallingly slow and cold-hearted response. Ashamed that the Home Secretary has met this catastrophe not with compassion, but confusion, red tape and delays.

We spoke to one elderly couple who have a niece living in London. They were keen to come to the UK - but said the process was too complicated and expensive.

Ironically, it was at a Tesco where the UK Government's absence was most conspicuous. In Przemysl, an abandoned Tesco has been converted into a makeshift reception centre for refugees.

This simply does not reflect the compassion I've seen from the British people, both at home and here on the border.

19 different countries have set up booths there, coordinating buses so refugees can be relocated across Europe. Places like Spain, Italy, France, Switzerland, Norway and Denmark were all represented. But the UK was nowhere to be found.

This simply does not reflect the compassion I've seen from the British people, both at home and here on the border. Boris Johnson and Priti Patel are betraying these refugees and the British people who are ready to welcome them with open arms.

We need to keep pushing the Government to do their bit.

Please help send Conservatives the message that we cannot turn our back on Ukraine.

Support Ukrainian Refugees

This is a humanitarian crisis that will continue for months and years, not weeks.

I know the stories that I've heard in Poland will stay with me for a long time. And I hope they stay with you, too.