Ukrainians: Visas and Further Support - Question

– in the House of Lords am 2:46 pm ar 4 Mawrth 2024.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Lord Kirkhope of Harrogate Lord Kirkhope of Harrogate Ceidwadwyr 2:46, 4 Mawrth 2024

To ask His Majesty’s Government what plans they have to extend visas for Ukrainians which are due to expire after 3 years, and what further support they intend to provide to Ukrainians in the United Kingdom.

Photo of Lord Sharpe of Epsom Lord Sharpe of Epsom The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department

My Lords, to provide future certainty, on 18 February the Government announced that existing Ukraine scheme visa holders will be able to apply for permission to remain in the UK for an additional 18 months under a new Ukraine permission extension scheme, which is set to open in early 2025 before the first Ukraine scheme visas start to expire in March 2025.

Photo of Lord Kirkhope of Harrogate Lord Kirkhope of Harrogate Ceidwadwyr

My Lords, I had the honour of being a Minister involved in the Bosnian resettlement scheme in 1996. I am very grateful to my noble friend for that Answer and commend the Government on their actions to offer sanctuary to so many Ukrainians. I also pay tribute to the many families and organisations under the Homes for Ukraine scheme who have hosted and helped those displaced people, including colleagues in this House and Members of the other place. However, the visas granted envisaged a shorter conflict than the one we unfortunately have, so will my noble friend assure the House that everything will be done to make necessary renewals as straightforward and stress-free as possible for those currently in receipt of our hospitality?

Photo of Lord Sharpe of Epsom Lord Sharpe of Epsom The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department

I thank my noble friend for those remarks and join him in praising the generosity of the British public over the three bespoke Ukraine schemes. The UK has welcomed or offered sanctuary to more than 280,000 Ukrainians and their families fleeing the war in Ukraine. Together with our partners and allies, the Government stand in solidarity with Ukraine and will show that those who need our help are still warmly welcomed. It is right that we continue to adapt and develop the visa routes to ensure that they keep pace with the rapidly shifting situation in Ukraine, remaining as efficient and sustainable as possible while providing stability for those welcomed to the UK who need our sanctuary. We will ensure that this is done as efficiently as possible.

Photo of Lord Addington Lord Addington Democratiaid Rhyddfrydol

My Lords, will the Minister assure us that all those being helped by this scheme will be assisted until it is safe to go home and that, whatever the rollout may be, a further scheme will be found? That is probably the assurance they need, and this country should give it.

Photo of Lord Sharpe of Epsom Lord Sharpe of Epsom The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department

The noble Lord raises a very good point. Of course, it is not for this Government to judge the certainty of conflict situations, which are very difficult to manage. However, I have no doubt that the Government will do whatever is necessary to maintain the current sanctuary that this country proudly offers.

Photo of Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede Shadow Spokesperson (Justice), Shadow Spokesperson (Home Affairs)

My Lords, I too pay tribute to all the families who have taken Ukrainians into their homes. Under the new changes to the Ukraine family scheme, unaccompanied children will no longer be able to join their parents in Britain automatically. Does the Minister think that restricting family rights at a time when Ukrainian troops are under heavy fire in Donetsk sends the right message to the people of Ukraine about our willingness to stand by them?

Photo of Lord Sharpe of Epsom Lord Sharpe of Epsom The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department

I rather regret the tone of that question if I am honest. Ultimately, of course we would like to see families reunited in a safe Ukraine. The UK’s Ukraine schemes are not family reunification pathways. They are designed to provide temporary sanctuary in the UK for Ukrainians fleeing war. Ukrainian nationals who would have qualified under the Ukraine family scheme will still be able to apply under Homes for Ukraine. The Home Secretary will obviously consider any compelling and compassionate grounds that are presented on a case-by-case basis; for example, where families will be separated from young children. Plenty of routes still exist for family reunification in the UK, even though, as I said earlier, they are not reunification pathways.

Photo of Lord Stirrup Lord Stirrup Crossbench

My Lords, I am aware of a Ukrainian lady who is harboured here in the United Kingdom, whose husband remains in Ukraine, and who has sadly had a return of a cancer from which she was previously in remission. She is not just grateful for but indeed overwhelmed by the help and treatment that she has received here in the UK. Does the Minister agree that while there is absolutely no room for complacency, we should be very proud of what this country has done in supporting the Ukrainians?

Photo of Lord Sharpe of Epsom Lord Sharpe of Epsom The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department

I completely agree with the noble and gallant Lord. Although I obviously cannot comment on individual cases, I wish the lady in question the very best, and I hope that she is reunified with her husband in due course.