Yesterday evening, Dr Catherine Briddick was interviewed by Iain Dale of LBC Radio about the UK government’s approach to Ukrainian refugees fleeing from the Russian invasion of Ukraine. She was asked about a possible community sponsorship scheme that may be one measure introduced, and more widely about what the government should be announcing in terms of schemes or actions for Ukrainian refugees.
In her response she noted that instead of a community-based sponsorship scheme as a first option, there are two “very simple legal solutions” that should be looked at. Firstly, “a one-line statement of changes to the immigration rules which deletes Ukraine from the list of countries where people require a visa to travel to the UK… that would enable the separated children, the older people, the women with children…to be able to access the UK safely and securely.” Then secondly, “when people arrive, having taken biometric information if we needed to, we would simply recognise them as refugees and give them the rights protected status that goes with that, and that enables people to access accommodation… to work… to go to school.”
In reference to the UK government’s bespoke schemes for people fleeing Syria and for those fleeing Afghanistan, she says these are “highly complex bureaucratic schemes that have settled or offered protection to comparatively small groups of people”. She states, “what the government is doing at the moment is exposing people fleeing war to an incredibly and agonisingly complex bureaucratic process that puts paperwork before protection.”
She further clarifies that “the reason why we recognise people as refugees is because it gives them a rights protected status in the UK … it makes the full panoply of state services available to them. I think in some contexts community sponsorship schemes can be fantastic, [but] it’s not going to meet the need that we’re seeing now. What does meet the need is the internationally agreed 1951 Refugee Convention, which was developed by individuals who had seen the horrors of the Second World War in Europe and knew exactly what was necessary to protect people from ever being confronted with that type of situation again... The UK was one of the states that was involved in drafting that Convention and we have the definition of a refugee at the heart of our immigration laws, and we have the means to recognise people as refugees. So this isn’t a legal problem that requires a new or complex scheme. It just requires us to do what we have on the statute books already and offer access and then protection.”