Putin wants a divided West—we must prove him wrong by aiding those fleeing Ukraine

Putin dreams of a divided West—we must prove him wrong by aiding Ukrainian refugees

This has been a devastating week for the people of Ukraine. Although it came as no surprise, we have all been horrified by Putin’s maniacal aggression. A terrible human tragedy is unfolding on our doorstep, and we must stand firmly with the people of Ukraine. 

It is imperative that we support Ukraine to defend itself. Militarily through NATO and in concert with the EU, the US and other allies to impose the most punitive sanctions possible on Putin’s regime.

But what cannot be forgotten is the human cost, and humanitarian response.

We must work with other countries to support those forced from their homes by this illegal and unprovoked invasion.

We can already see the long queues of cars; families desperate to escape before it is too late. Ukrainians in the UK will be watching in despair as a nightmare scenario unfolds for friends and family. We are looking at millions being displaced.

Putin is counting on the West to be divided and uncoordinated. We must prove him wrong.

This crisis demands a coordinated humanitarian response. Anything less will play into Putin’s hands and destabilise our continent even further.

That is why I wrote to the Foreign and Home Secretaries yesterday, urging them to make an ambitious commitment to resettle Ukrainian refugees in the UK. This must include withdrawing the Nationality and Borders Bill, that would criminalise Ukrainian refugees – and any others – who come to the UK to seek asylum.

The UK has a proud history of providing sanctuary to those forced to flee conflict and persecution, and we must not turn our backs on the Ukrainian people in their hour of need.

The Government must work with the UNHCR and other humanitarian agencies to ensure safe passage out of Ukraine for those fleeing violence. Many will seek refuge in neighbouring countries and we must help those nations to provide the support and accommodation these refugees need.

The United States Government has also warned that “Russian forces are creating lists of identified Ukrainians to be killed or sent to camps”, and that this is likely to target “Russian and Belarusian dissidents in exile in Ukraine, journalists and anti-corruption activists, and vulnerable populations such as religious and ethnic minorities and LGBTQI+ persons”. Ukrainians on Putin’s kill list must not be abandoned and left at the mercy of Russian troops

But we have been here before.

In Afghanistan we saw a military campaign generate a humanitarian crisis. And the Government simply did not do enough.

The Afghan Citizens’ Resettlement Scheme did not open until four months after it was announced. Far too many Afghan evacuees are trapped in Home Office limbo, in unsuitable accommodation, and still have no sign of the indefinite leave to remain that they were promised. 

One of the crucial flaws of the ACRS was the Government’s failure to involve local authorities in the design and development of the scheme, and to give them the funding they need. Local councils are critical to the success of refugee resettlement, and they are already under enormous financial pressure.

These failures must not be repeated in the event of a Ukrainian refugee crisis.

The Government should work closely with councils and involve them in planning from the outset. A resettlement scheme must also include a full five-year funding package for each and every person a council resettles.

My heart goes out to the people of Ukraine today. I and my Liberal Democrat colleagues will continue to put pressure on the Government to coordinate an international humanitarian response. 

Putin’s actions threaten to create a humanitarian crisis in Europe on an unthinkable scale. The UK must step up to tackle it now.