Liberal Democrats

Emergency airlifts for Ukrainian refugees in Poland

We must provide a emergency airlifts to get Ukrainian refugees to security in the UK.

By Ed Davey - Leader of the Liberal Democrats, Mar 17, 2022 6:03

On Wednesday, I returned from the Ukraine-Poland border. When I was there, I met refugees who have been forced to flee Putin’s assault on their homes, including people who are desperate to come to the UK – often to join family members. I was proud to see many British aid workers and volunteers providing support and the generosity of the British public who are offering their homes.

The Conservatives' heartlessly inadequate response to countless Ukrainian women and children fleeing Putin’s bombs is shameful.

However, I was appalled by the lack of any organised UK Government-sponsored or supported welcome and the absence of UK Government personnel on the ground at the border. This stood in stark contrast to 19 other nations who were present on the ground.

It is very frustrating that, despite the many recent U-turns on visas, the Government still refuses to act on resettlement and to facilitate safe and quick passage to the UK. The Conservatives' heartlessly inadequate response to countless Ukrainian women and children fleeing Putin’s bombs is shameful.

Since the very start of this war, the Liberal Democrats have been calling for a resettlement programme, working with the UNHCR and other refugee agencies to bring Ukrainian refugees to the UK, as we did for those fleeing Assad’s war in Syria.

I have written to Liz Truss, the Foreign Secretary and Priti Patel, the Home Secretary, urging the Government to launch an immediate emergency airlift operation to resettle Ukrainian refugees currently arriving in Poland who want to come to the UK. Given the scale of the Ukrainian refugee crisis, it is only right that our country plays its part. You can read my letter below.

Britain has a long and proud tradition of giving sanctuary to those fleeing violence and persecution. It is clear that the British people are prepared to honour that tradition and welcome Ukrainian refugees with open arms. The Conservative Government's actions have let down the British people.

Without some sort of resettlement scheme, ideally far more open and flexible than past schemes, many refugees will never be able to get to the UK to take up the incredible offers of help from people in our country. There is also a very real danger that some refugees will fall into the hands of human traffickers and people smugglers.

Surely these families have been through enough? It’s urgent that people are now transported to safety and help so they can start rebuilding their lives.

We must prevent that, by providing safe and fast transportation for Ukrainian refugees seeking to come to the UK. The Government should send personnel to the Ukrainian border now, ideally working with the UK’s own specialist refugee and aid charities, to form new welcome groups with the charities already on the ground.

We must also provide free flights to the UK, with coaches to the nearest Polish airports from key border crossing points and establish welcoming reception centres for the refugees here on arrival at the UK.

The queues of refugees are exhausted and traumatised. Surely these families have been through enough? It’s urgent that people are now transported to safety and help so they can start rebuilding their lives.

Emergency airlifts are now the best guarantee for these refugees to get to the UK safely and swiftly, to the kindness and compassion of the British public waiting for them.

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