Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine is an abomination, and it is right that the UK stands alongside NATO and our European allies in condemning this heinous violation of international law.
The humanitarian impact of this invasion is appalling, civilians are being killed and over 4.7 million Ukrainians are now estimated to have fled their country, while another six million people are internally displaced within the country.
In response our local community has rallied together and responded with huge generosity. Of particular note is the fantastic Lewisham Polish Centre in Forest Hill.
They have been doing brilliant work co-ordinating a relief effort for Ukrainian refugees in Poland.
I was really proud to visit them and contribute to their appeal and was overwhelmed by the support they have received from our local community. So much so that our local Labour Party office was used as an overflow storage for the donations they were receiving.
Our community has also responded fantastically to the Homes for Ukrainians scheme with so many people registering to sponsor a family.
Sadly, this generosity and compassion is being let down by shambolic Home Office bureaucracy with more than 70 per cent of applicants under the scheme still awaiting a visa.
One of my constituents is sponsoring a mother and son who fled to Poland but have now returned to Ukraine because they could not find accommodation and are still awaiting a decision from the Home Office nearly one month on.
They are now spending five hours a day sheltering from air raids.
These delays in expediting visas are putting innocent civilians at risk and I raised this matter in Parliament but received a poor response. This just adds to the worrying lack of urgency on the Government’s part to help Ukrainians reach the UK safely.
To make matters worse it’s not as if we didn’t know this would be happening. We knew in advance an invasion was likely and we have just come through the shambles of the Afghan resettlement scheme and yet the Government were still not prepared.
To resolve this, we have been calling for a simple emergency visa that would cover all Ukrainians wanting to come to the UK for sanctuary right now.
This would lift normal visa conditions other than biometrics and security checks which can be swiftly done en route and would provide a quick, simple and safe route to sanctuary for all who need it, without requiring excessive documentation whilst fleeing a warzone.
The Ukrainian people have shown great courage in the face of an appalling Russian onslaught, but the Government needs to also step up and match the spirit of the British public and other Western nations in giving sanctuary to those fleeing this war as we have done in generations past.
Please make cheques payable to “MSI Media Limited” and send by post to South London Press, Unit 112, 160 Bromley Road, Catford, London SE6 2NZ
Former Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick has encouraged everyone in the country who can afford to do so to buy a newspaper, and told the Downing Street press briefing: “A free country needs a free press, and the newspapers of our country are under significant financial pressure”.
So if you have enjoyed reading this story, and if you can afford to do so, we would be so grateful if you can buy our newspaper or make a donation, which will allow us to continue to bring stories like this one to you both in print and online.