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Ukraine calls on UK to relax visa requirements for fleeing refugees

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By Reuters
Ukraine calls on UK to relax visa requirements for fleeing refugees
Ukraine calls on UK to relax visa requirements for fleeing refugees   -   Copyright  Thomson Reuters 2022

LONDON -Ukraine’s ambassador to London said on Wednesday that 100,000 Ukrainian refugees could eventually come to Britain as he called on the government to relax the conditions for granting visas for people fleeing the conflict with Russia.

Russian forces have subjected some Ukrainian cities and towns to relentless bombardments, leading to the fastest displacement of people in Europe since World War Two.

Many countries in other parts of Europe have allowed Ukrainian refugees to enter without visas. Britain has required people have visas, and the application process has led to criticism that it is too slow and bureaucratic.

Britain has granted just over 700 visas to Ukrainians since the start of the war. By comparison, Poland has taken in more than 1.2 million Ukrainians.

Ambassador Vadym Prystaiko told a parliamentary committee that he understood security checks were required, but asked for the visa process to be simplified.

“Most people don’t have passports with them, their homes were bombed, we’re not printing passports in my embassy,” he told the British parliament’s Home Affairs committee.

“In reality if you have a one-year-old, it is definitely not a terrorist. So you can strike them out of the list of potential terrorist risks.”

Prystaiko, who has been Ukraine’s top diplomat in Britain since 2020, said obtaining visas to Britain was difficult even before Russia invaded.

The ambassador said his wife was initially denied a visa when he was appointed Ukraine’s envoy to Britain.

“When I was coming here as ambassador, I got my visa on time although I was already approved by your government, my wife didn’t have it,” he said.

Asked whether he would like to see a plane travel from Britain to Poland or Romania to bring back refugees, Prystaiko said: “If you want to send planes, send F-16s.”