Boris Johnson today dismissed calls to waive visa rules for Ukrainian refugees to make it easier for them to come to Britain as he said strict identity checks must be kept in place because of security concerns
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Boris Johnson today dismissed calls to waive visa rules for Ukrainian refugees to make it easier for them to come to Britain as he said strict identity checks must be kept in place because of security concerns.  

The Prime Minister has faced repeated calls in recent days from the SNP to waive the requirements, with the party’s Westminster leader, Ian Blackford, urging the premier at lunchtime to ‘bring down the barriers’. 

But Mr Johnson said the Government will not ‘simply abandon all checks’ as he insisted the UK will be ‘as generous as we possibly can to the people of Ukraine’. 

Mr Johnson said he did not believe it would be ‘sensible’ to do away with biometric checks, which are part of the visa application security process, given that people are coming from a ‘theatre of war’. 

Senior Tory MP Mark Harper yesterday warned against ditching the checks as he claimed Vladimir Putin could try to disguise Russian agents as Ukrainian refugees to gain entry to the UK and carry out a repeat of the Salisbury spy attack. 

Boris Johnson today dismissed calls to waive visa rules for Ukrainian refugees to make it easier for them to come to Britain as he said strict identity checks must be kept in place because of security concerns

Boris Johnson today dismissed calls to waive visa rules for Ukrainian refugees to make it easier for them to come to Britain as he said strict identity checks must be kept in place because of security concerns

The Prime Minister has faced repeated calls in recent days from the SNP to waive the requirements, with the party's Westminster leader, Ian Blackford, urging the premier at lunchtime to 'bring down the barriers'

The Prime Minister has faced repeated calls in recent days from the SNP to waive the requirements, with the party’s Westminster leader, Ian Blackford, urging the premier at lunchtime to ‘bring down the barriers’

How does the visa process work and why do people have to provide biometric data?

The Government’s refugee scheme means British nationals with family in Ukraine are now allowed to bring their relatives to Britain while Ukrainians living in the UK can do the same.    

People in Ukraine who are eligible to come to the UK must apply for a visa online.

This process requires people to provide a wealth of information about themselves and formal evidence to back up their application.

They must provide their full name, date of birth, their current passport and details of any criminal convictions. 

They must also prove their link to the UK. 

For example, someone who is looking to join their partner in Britain must prove that they are married or have been living together for at least two years. 

They must provide evidence to show this is the case in the form of a marriage certificate, a tenancy agreement, utility bill or bank statement.     

Once they have submitted their application with supporting documentation they must attend an in-person appointment at a Visa Application Centre (VAC). 

When they attend their appointment they are asked to give biometric data in the form of fingerprints.

This data is then used by the UK to conduct security checks which then informs the decision on whether someone is granted a visa. 

The UK has faced criticism for sticking to this system because the situation on the ground in Ukraine makes it difficult for people to attend a VAC. 

The VAC in Kyiv has closed and a temporary facility has been opened in the city of Lviv in the west of Ukraine.

Ukrainians who cannot make it to Lviv are being encouraged to visit a VAC in a nearby country like Poland, Moldova or Romania. 

However, the Government is adamant that the strict checks must remain in place because of security concerns. 

The same security screening process, including capturing biometrics, applied during the withdrawal from Afghanistan last year.

People who want to come to the UK must attend an appointment at a visa application centre (VAC) where they are asked to provide biometric information, including fingerprints, which is then used to carry out security checks. 

However, the VAC in Kyiv is closed, with a temporary facility having been opened in the city of Lviv, in the west of Ukraine. 

Ukrainians who cannot make it to Lviv are being encouraged to visit a VAC in a nearby country like Poland, Moldova or Romania.     

The Government has set up a refugee scheme to allow Ukrainians living in the UK to bring their relatives here.

Ministers are also setting up a ‘humanitarian sponsorship pathway’ which will allow individuals, charities and business groups to offer to sponsor Ukrainian citizens with no family ties to the UK so they can come to Britain. 

Mr Blackford raised the visa waiver issue at Prime Minister’s Questions as he told Mr Johnson the UK must ‘help the Ukrainian people right now’. 

He said: ‘This is a moment for Europe to stand united in the face of Putin’s war. The European Union have acted and waived all visa requirements for Ukrainian refugees.

‘The UK Government stands alone in our continent in so far refusing to do the same.

‘Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland’s First Minister, has made clear our country stands ready to open our borders and our hearts to the people of Ukraine, but the UK Government must bring down the barriers.

‘Will the Prime Minister join with our European partners and waive all visa requirements for the people of Ukraine who are fleeing war?’

Mr Johnson replied: ‘The EU already, because of its Schengen border-free zone, has its own arrangements with Ukraine, they have differed for a long time from those of the UK.

‘But what we do have is a plan to be as generous as we possibly can to the people of Ukraine and the numbers that will come just under our family reunion scheme could be in the hundreds of thousands, to say nothing of the special new path that we are opening up for those coming, the humanitarian path, that is also uncapped.

‘I think that is the right thing to do. What we won’t do is simply abandon all checks.

‘We don’t think that that is sensible, particularly in view of the security concerns, the reasonable security concerns, about people coming from that theatre of war.’

Mr Harper, a former immigration minister, told the House of Commons yesterday that it is ‘really important that we continue to keep the biometric checks in place’.

Ukrainian nationals fleeing the conflict in their country follow the directions for a "Ukrainians Welcome Center" after their arrival at the Paris-Beauvais Airport in Tille, north of Paris, on March 2

Ukrainian nationals fleeing the conflict in their country follow the directions for a “Ukrainians Welcome Center” after their arrival at the Paris-Beauvais Airport in Tille, north of Paris, on March 2

He said: ‘I can still remember what happened in Salisbury. The Putin regime is a regime that will not hesitate to send agents here to kill British citizens and it is the Home Secretary’s job to make sure we keep people safe.’

The former chief whip today told the BBC’s Politics Live programme that ‘Vladimir Putin is someone who has used chemical weapons in Britain to murder British people and we know he will not hesitate to use the opportunity of refugees to get Russian agents coming to Britain’.

He added: ‘I think the Home Secretary has to do two things, she has to maintain security but she also has to have a generous scheme for refugees. She can do both of those things at the same time.’

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