I am writing once again, to update you on the ever-evolving situation in Ukraine.
As the war is now into its second month, the destruction increases by the day. I am in awe at the resilience of the Ukrainian people, and their courage. It is deeply important that the international community does not let their support for Ukraine wane.
Below are updates on some of the key areas surrounding the crisis.
Homes for Refugees
The Homes for Refugees Scheme is finally up and running. I know that a number of constituents have already taken in Ukrainian families through the scheme. Many are also in the process of applying for a family, through the scheme.
My office has been assisting constituents who have been applying and if you need any help, please get in touch.
As I said in my last update, I am glad that this scheme has been set up, after considerable delay. However, those who wish to partake still face a mountain of red tape and obstacles. Only 2700 visas have been offered to Ukrainian refugees, under the scheme, despite 28,000 applications being made.
This is ridiculously slow progress. The government needs to remember and acknowledge that these are families fleeing a warzone. Time is of the essence. WE cannot afford for families to be put in unnecessary danger because of the government’s bureaucratic red tape.
Lisa Nandy and Yvette Cooper have co-written to Michael Gove and Priti Patel to raise these issues. You can view the letter here.
Under the current set up, People fleeing Ukraine have to find an internet café and fill in a 50-page form, uploading documentation such as water bills, which often they don’t have. It is possible to retain essential security checks and biometrics while simplifying this process.
Secondly, the Government must take on a role in matching people to refugees. It cannot be right that people who are fleeing Russian aggression have to advertise themselves on social media in the hope that a British family will notice. There are a number of charities who can assist with this, but they are keen that the Government doesn’t leave this entirely to refugees themselves.
As those who wish to apply to the scheme, must commit to hosting a Ukrainian family for a minimum of 6 months, the government needs to do more to give financial assistance to those who have opened their homes. Support has been given to councils to support the increased use on local services, but support should be given to hosts as well.
The government initially did not set up a system for matching refugees with host families, leading to the bewildering situation of hosts having to advertise on social media for a refugee. This illustrated a complete lack of foresight by the UK government and I am glad this has been rectified.
STATE OF THE WAR
There have been horrific reports coming from the battlefield of mass human rights violations and deliberate violations of the laws of armed conflict, by Russian soldiers. These include the heinous act of using rape as a weapon of war. This is truly a heinous act. The Russian Military has also intentionally targeted civilians, with air strikes on maternity hospitals, packed theatres, and other civilian targets.
It is critical that after this conflict is over, Russia must be held culpable, by the international community, for the full weight of their heinous actions. Gordon Brown has called for a Nürnberg style trials, for the Russian high command. The UK government is also currently compiling a legal case to expose Russian human right breaches.
NO FLY ZONE
There are still no plans for NATO to install a no-fly zone above Ukraine. The calculus remains that engaging in combat with Russian planes would be too much of an unpredictable escalation that would only escalate the bloodshed further.
However, if Russia does engage in combat with a NATO member, this will of course lead to an alliance wide response.
COST OF LIVING IMPACT
With the cost of living and energy bills skyrocketing in recent days, it has become more and more obvious that the UK needs to achieve much greater energy security and independence, as a matter of urgency.
Labour’s plan for energy security is as follows:
An energy efficiency revolution to insulate 19 million homes in a decade, cut gas imports by 15% and cut bills by up to £400
Double our onshore wind capacity to 30GW by 2030, to power an extra 10 million homes
Increase offshore wind capacity to at least 75GW by 2035
Triple solar power by 2030, back tidal power and further investment in hydrogen
End the delay on nuclear power, confirming Sizewell C and backing SMRs
The government needs to act swiftly to ensure that the UK and its neighbours no longer have to rely on Russian gas and oil to fuel our homes.
A constituent, Sandra, who volunteers at the Ukrainian Institute London, has given me this link to share. https://refugee-support.ukrainianinstitute.org.uk/
This link offers some useful resources for those who are looking to host Ukrainians and Ukrainians who are arriving in the UK.
Please share it with anyone who you think would appreciate it.
Please find the video links to the Urgent Questions below:
To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs if she will make a statement on Ukraine with particular reference to the use of rape as weapon of war.
To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if she will make a statement on the issuing of visas to refugees from Ukraine.
To ask the Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities if he will make a statement on the ‘Homes for Ukraine’ Scheme.
If you wish to receive any of my previous updates on this crisis, please get back in touch.