Cannes, 28 February 2022
By Mark Porter
An urgent review in Britain of its narrow-minded and heartless approach to immigration has been prompted by Kevin Foster, the immigration minister, who yesterday suggested that Ukrainians could apply for seasonal worker visas to pick fruit or vegetables if they wanted a safe haven in sovereign Britain.
As refugees poured into neighbouring countries exhausted, fearful and bewildered, the apocalypse that has engulfed their country continued unabated. As the number of Ukrainian refugees pouring every hour into Poland, Hungary, Slovakia, Moldova and Romania topped 400,000, queues of cars snaked 50km back from the borders. Trains arriving from the east are desperately overcrowded. The United Nations says that up to four million are likely to follow suit if the fighting spreads. Europe has not seen mass flight on this scale since the Hungarian uprising in 1956.
Home Office rules on immigration to allow all Ukrainians already in the UK to extend their visas have been relaxed by the rigidly anti-immigration Home Secretary, Priti Patel, who is herself an immigrant. However there is no offer yet of refugee status for those now without home or money, overwhelmingly women, children and old people seeking safety. Whether they ever see their menfolk again remains to be seen. They have been advised to go to British consulates in neighbouring countries to fill in application forms for casual summer work.
Meanwhile Prime Minister Boris Johnson last night paid a surprise visit to a Ukrainian church in central London, leading to comments that mouthing hollow pieties will not be enough.