Eligibility should be based on people’s ‘intrinsic worth as human beings’ – not economic ‘value’

Plaid Cymru MP for Ceredigion, Ben Lake, has today (Tuesday 1 March) urged the UK Government to waive all visa requirements for fleeing Ukrainians.

Following political pressure, the Home Secretary today announced that wider family members of Ukrainians in the UK – parents, grandparents, adult offspring, siblings, and their immediate family members – will now be eligible to come to the UK for 12 months. She also announced a humanitarian sponsorship pathway, which will open up a route to the UK for Ukrainians who may not have family ties with the UK but who are able to match with individuals, charities, businesses, and community groups.

The Ceredigion MP criticised the UK Government for not going as far as European Union countries, which have all waived visa requirements for Ukrainians for three years. He also questioned whether, by matching refugees to businesses under the humanitarian sponsorship pathway, “eligibility will be decided based on economic ‘value’ rather than people's humanitarian needs and their intrinsic worth as human beings.”

Speaking in the House of Commons, Ben Lake MP sought clarification about the eligibility of the schemes:

“I’m hopeful that today’s statement will offer much-needed certainty to constituents of mine who are desperately worried about the safety of their family members, but I would be grateful if the Home Secretary could offer some clarification on two particular examples that have been shared with my office.

“The first is whether adult siblings and their dependent children will be able to join their UK family under the Ukrainian family scheme, and the second is whether unaccompanied grandchildren will be able to do the same.”

In response, the Home Secretary confirmed that adult siblings and their dependent children, and unaccompanied grandchildren will be able to come to the UK under the scheme.

Speaking after the session, Ben Lake MP added:

“Plaid Cymru welcomes the news that the Home Office is waking up to the inadequacy of the UK government’s initial response to this latest refugee crisis. Refugees from Ukraine will now receive greater assistance to reach safety in the UK.

“While we await full details of the new Humanitarian Sponsorship Pathway, it is unlikely that it will offer comparable support to that being offered by other countries. Well-meaning sponsorship by individuals and families is not a replacement for a generous Government-led schemes like the visa waivers being implemented in the EU.

“The Home Office scheme also includes matching asylum seekers to businesses, raising the question whether eligibility will be decided based on economic ‘value’ rather than people's humanitarian needs and their intrinsic worth as human beings.

“As we saw with the Afghan Resettlement Scheme – these complex and restrictive systems simply are not in keeping with our ambition in Wales to be a Nation of Sanctuary. We urgently need an overhaul of our asylum system so that those fleeing persecution are welcomed with open arms, instead of frustrated every step of the way.”