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'No reason' for Ukrainian refugees to arrive in UK illegally, says Priti Patel

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By Luke Hanrahan
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Rwandan Foreign Minister Vincent Biruta (L) and Britain's Home Secretary Priti Patel (R) at the United Nations in Geneva.
Rwandan Foreign Minister Vincent Biruta (L) and Britain's Home Secretary Priti Patel (R) at the United Nations in Geneva.   -   Copyright  Martial Trezzini/Keystone via AP

UK Home Secretary Priti Patel says there is "no reason" for Ukrainian refugees to be transferred to Rwanda under the country's new immigration policy.

Patel told Euronews that any refugees arriving in the UK will be allowed to remain if they enter "legitimately and legally".

The UK government struck a deal with Rwanda to send some illegal asylum seekers to the African country before their applications are processed.

"Those who travel to the UK by illegal and dangerous routes may be relocated to Rwanda, where they will have their asylum claims considered," Patel told the House of Commons in April.

The Home Secretary recently travelled to Kigali to formally sign the agreement and examine proposed accommodation facilities.

But there are concerns that the new policy may also apply to undocumented Ukrainian refugees, fleeing the war in their home country.

"They’re very worried, they’re just afraid," said Maxim Holuvuk, a volunteer who supports Ukrainian refugees now living in London.

"I can’t imagine taking me to another continent with a different culture, so far away from everything I know and leaving my life here," added Valeria Titkova.

"I don’t think any of us would want to be in that situation so why should we be putting these people in that situation."

'They are here legitimately and legally'

Many Ukrainian refugees in Britain have not yet had their visa applications processed to an administrative backlog.

As neighbouring Ireland has lifted any visa requirement for those fleeing the Russian invasion, some undocumented individuals have arrived in the UK via Northern Ireland, through the open border arrangement.

But Priti Patel did not acknowledge that the Rwandan policy would not be of concern for Ukrainian refugees and saw no reason for them to arrive through the back door.

"For Ukrainian nationals in the UK, there is no reason why they should be undocumented," she told Euronews.

"They are here legitimately and legally ... firstly through our visa route and secondly through their status in the UK."

"The other point about Rwanda which is a migration and economic development partnership is it actually addresses the wider issue about illegal migration," Patel added.

The UK's immigration stance has been backed by a number of MPs in the ruling Conservative party.

"I think it’s going to serve as a huge deterrent," MP Andrew Bridgen told Euronews.

"We’re going to have laws to make it easier to deport foreign criminals and I think it is important that included in those foreign criminals are people who have committed the criminal act of entering the UK illegally and undocumented."

On Thursday, Britain and Rwanda faced down two United Nations agencies that have sharply criticised the controversial plan.

UN officials and other critics have raised human rights concerns and warned such a move goes against the international Refugee Convention.

Additional sources • AP