In the scale of horrors that may be visited on a fellow human being, having to abandon everything and flee your home and your country to escape death or intimidation or persecution or the complete destruction of familiar life. Where I live, as in towns across the country, we have refugee families who are adjusting as best they can to a new life – the result of the humanitarian disasters in Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan.
Horror of Putin’s invasion of Ukraine
Now the horror of Putin’s invasion of Ukraine has been unfolding, in unparalleled detail. We are seeing the wanton destruction of towns, the indiscriminate killing of civilians, untold numbers sheltering underground, and a million refugees in only a week – mainly women and children – fleeing the terror unleashed upon them by the Russian army.
What should the UK be doing in our name? Deeds not words certainly … and please spare us the overseas photo ops: just get on with sorting out what needs to be done.
Put pressure on our government to act
Inevitably, as individual UK citizens we feel a sense of helplessness and despair at the issues unfolding. But there are many things we can do to help – see this excellent article by Stella Perrott.
Let’s also focus on things our government should do and could be doing and urge them through our MPs and petitions and demonstrations to:
- Further reduce the refugee visa requirements immediately (the minister suggesting applying for a temporary work visa as a fruit picker is a woeful response). The current offer is still far from as generous as needed, if we’re to provide sanctuary for the potential 200,000 Ukrainians the government has suggested are to come here.
- Drop the restrictive elements of the nationality and borders bill, more especially by accepting the many amendments proposed by the House of Lords e.g. so that refugees are not criminalised by arriving in UK by an ‘irregular’ route.
- Introduce (not just talk about it with false promises/ claims) sanctions against the Russian state, companies and individuals. Current action is glacial in relation to Russian ‘dirty’ money and assets, which the UK is widely criticised for encouraging: reports suggest that minimal people/companies have actually been sanctioned by the UK, while other governments have already acted fast.
- Support the Ukrainian government with requested supplies as they resist the invasion of their country.
- Support the independent humanitarian NGO charitable organisations working with refugees.
- Introduce a settlement scheme of some kind for the Refugee Council and the associated local City of Sanctuary charities to operate.
Refugees must be supported
It is understood that there are still 12,000 Afghan refugees in hotels, months after their arrival in UK. They need to be housed so they can adjust and begin to reclaim their lives. We need a scheme to welcome Ukrainians in the devastation of their lives. It is expected that the devastation and killing in Ukraine will continue to worsen; the million fleeing to date are only a start.
John Harris is writing in a personal capacity; he is chair of Harrogate District of Sanctuary