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Immigration Policy

Volume 709: debated on Monday 28 February 2022

We have introduced a new global points-based immigration system that works in the interest of the whole of our United Kingdom, including Scotland. We continue to deliver a comprehensive programme of engagement on the new immigration system, including with each of the devolved Administrations.

President Zelensky’s formidable leadership and valour should inspire and humble us all. Like many MPs, I have constituents with family and close friends in Ukraine. Given the humanitarian crisis, will the Minister please advise us on what discussions are taking place with the Scottish Government to develop comprehensive, rapid accommodation for Ukrainian refugees, such as Ken Stewart and his family, across these islands now and in the coming days?

I briefly spoke with Neil Gray on Friday, ahead of potentially meeting more formally, about potential options for Afghan nationals currently in bridging hotels and those leaving Ukraine to be both housed and settled in Scotland. If there are individual cases at this stage, please feel free to bring them to my attention, and we will look into them.

I have had that since I was 13 years old, Mr Speaker. You are not the first, and I am sure you will not be the last.

The Opposition support the call of the Welsh and Scottish Governments for the UK Government to offer sanctuary to Ukrainians who are fleeing the horrors of war, but the UK Government’s response has, once again, demonstrated the toxic combination of incompetence and indifference that are the hallmarks of this Home Secretary and her ministerial team.

Over the weekend, the Minister, who is responsible for safe and legal migration, tweeted that the Ukrainians who are running for their lives should apply to come to our country on seasonal fruit-picking visas. That tweet was the modern-day equivalent of “Let them eat cake.” Thankfully he has deleted it, but will he now come to the Dispatch Box to apologise unconditionally for that tweet? Will he also offer swift, well-managed and safe sanctuary to these victims of Putin’s barbarity who require our support?

I am interested in contrasting those comments with what the Ukrainian ambassador said yesterday. My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary will shortly announce more. As I have already said, it was useful to have a constructive conversation with the Scottish Government on Friday.

The Minister will have heard loud and clear during his call with Neil Gray on Friday that the Scottish Government fully support replicating the European model and lifting visa requirements for Ukrainian nationals now. The UK Government are now alone among our European allies in asking Ukrainians to jump through visa hoops to reach sanctuary here, and they are even more alone in legislating to criminalise, marginalise and impoverish those who seek asylum through their anti-refugee Bill. Surely basic human decency requires an urgent rethink on both counts.

My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary will shortly say a bit more on what we are looking to do for Ukrainians. Yes, it was a productive conversation with Neil Gray, but one thing that would certainly help us to support more of those seeking asylum in this country would be if 31 of the 32 local authority areas in Scotland, including the hon. Gentleman’s own, were not refusing to be dispersal areas.