The Bishop of Southwark, the Rt Revd Christopher Chessun, says, “The Prime Minister’s words over the weekend about generous provision for refugees fleeing Ukraine will remain rhetoric unless matched by immediate changes in Government policy to lift significant visa restrictions.  The resilience of the Ukrainian people in the face of the Russian assault on the territorial integrity of a sovereign democratic European nation is giving inspiration and hope across the continent.  Nevertheless, this shocking act of aggression is unleashing a humanitarian crisis and forcing hundreds of thousands of Ukrainian nationals including large numbers of women and children to flee from their homes and seek safe refuge elsewhere in Europe.

Under the present law it is illegal for a Ukrainian national to fly to the UK without a visa. This makes it impossible for many who are fleeing the conflict to come legally to the UK to apply for asylum. Applying for the available visa routes will be difficult for a great many desperate people. Other countries including the Republic of Ireland have waived this visa requirement.

Our first responsibility is to respond with compassion and help to those who need it. A temporary waiver would be an effective means of showing our support for the people of Ukraine.

With other members of the Lords Spiritual I have raised concerns about the Government’s Nationality and Borders Bill, including the provision to deem inadmissible those asylum seekers who arrive in the UK without a visa.

The events in Ukraine show why this aspect of the Bill is problematic. In extreme and emergency circumstances it is not always possible for those seeking asylum to follow the narrow route permitted by this Bill. The Government should think again about how our asylum system meets the need of situations like that unfolding in Ukraine.  It is imperative that we make more generous provision and do so promptly.”