Over the past few days, images of desperate Ukrainian families turned away by authorities have cast the UK’s response to what has been called the biggest refugee crisis since World War II in stark contrast to its European neighbours.
The UK has so far refused to match the EU’s decision to offer Ukrainians an open sanctuary, instead applying a limited system of family reunification and humanitarian sponsorship.
A concession on Thursday from the Home Office, struggling to show it has the situation under control, means Ukrainians with passports will be able to apply for UK visas online and hand over their biometrics once in the country, a simplification part of the web of bureaucracy faced by Ukrainians trying to find refuge in the UK.
However, on Tuesday, the European Commissioner for Home Affairs, Ylva Johansson, stood in front of the european parliament and said that all Ukrainians fleeing the war would continue to be welcomed with open arms by EU countries. “Millions more will flee and we must welcome them,” she said.
A few days after the invasion of Russia, EU states decided to activate the previously unused system Directive on temporary protection (TPD), which gives any Ukrainian national the right to live and work in the EU for up to three years. They will also be able to access education and housing without having to seek asylum.
In the last 12 days, the EU has accepted more refugees than during the crisis of 2015 and 2016, when 1.3 million people applied for asylum in the 28 EU member states, Norway and Switzerland.
The majority of Ukrainian refugees went to neighboring countries: more than 1.5 million to Poland, Hungary (about 225,000), Slovakia (176,000), Moldova (104,000), Romania (85,000) , Belarus (860) and Russia (106,000).