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Ukraine: Humanitarian Crisis

Volume 710: debated on Tuesday 8 March 2022

4. What recent discussions she has had with international partners on the humanitarian crisis in Ukraine. (905923)

14. What recent discussions she has had with international partners on the humanitarian crisis in Ukraine. (905935)

17. What recent discussions she has had with international partners on the humanitarian crisis in Ukraine. (905938)

Russia’s assault on Ukraine is unprovoked, premeditated, barbaric and an assault on a sovereign democracy. The UK has committed £220 million of humanitarian assistance to Ukraine and the region. We are in regular contact with our allies across the world, as well as international agencies such as the UN and other humanitarian partners and donors, to assess the needs on the ground and to ensure an internationally co-ordinated response. We call on Russia to respect its obligations under international humanitarian law.

It is absolutely vital that the humanitarian corridors remain open to facilitate the safe passage of refugees from Ukraine as well as the safe passage of humanitarian aid into the country, so what steps has the Minister taken, in conjunction with NATO allies, to ensure that that happens?

We note Russia’s claim of creating humanitarian corridors. These are just not credible. The current humanitarian corridors that Russia has highlighted lead into Russia, and it is an obscene and offensive gesture to the Ukrainian people to invite them to take refuge in the arms of the country currently seeking to destroy theirs. It is not credible and we call upon Russia to allow proper, meaningful humanitarian access.

Constituents trying to help their elderly and disabled relatives out of Ukraine describe their arduous 19-hour journey from the south to Lviv for biometric enrolment due to the lack of safe routes in the south. They are now awaiting appointments in Poland, but who knows how long that will take? They need to know, as others have asked today, what more the Foreign Office will do with the Home Office to make this process quicker and more effective.

As my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary said, the Home Office has established a forward presence, including just over the Ukrainian border into Poland, in order to facilitate cases like the one that the hon. Lady has raised. We continue working closely with the Home Office to ensure that its work on receiving Ukrainian refugees is as quick, effective and efficient as possible.

Mariupol has been described as a living hell by those who have been subject to the vicious bombardment in the city. What are the Government doing to get people who are under siege, including brave HALO Trust staff, rescued into some safety?

The hon. and gallant Gentleman raises an incredibly important point. Our ability to project influence into Ukraine is understandably heavily curtailed. We will continue working to ensure that potential human rights abuses are catalogued and put forward for subsequent trials in the International Criminal Court and other places, if relevant. I take the point about what more can be done to help the brave people who have stayed behind to do great work in Ukraine and what we can do to help them to evacuate the country. I cannot give him details at the moment but his point is well made.

The Foreign Secretary has spoken about the work ongoing with the Home Office to process applications of refugees coming over the border into Poland, but people are also flooding over the borders into Romania, Hungary, Moldova and other neighbouring countries. What more can we do on the ground in those countries to help to swiftly get people to our shores?

My hon. Friend raises a very important point. As we have said, the Home Office has established a forward presence in Poland, but also in the other countries bordering Ukraine, to facilitate the forward passage for those wishing to come to the UK. The Prime Minister and the Home Secretary have made it clear that we intend to have a generous offer to the Ukrainian people of a refuge to those seeking that, and we will continue co-ordinating with the Home Office in its work to establish routes to the UK.

Apart from humanitarian reasons, there are siren voices suggesting that we should commit to a no-fly zone in Ukraine, notwithstanding our existing support to the country and our commitment to article 5 and to NATO. Will the Minister assure the House once again that there is no intention to intervene directly militarily in this war, for a host of reasons, including the fact that it would lead to a wider conflict?

The UK should be rightly proud of the support that we gave to the Ukrainian armed forces over a number of years through Operation Orbital and through the early deployment of NLAWs, or next generation light anti-tank weapons—the anti-tank missile systems that have proven so effective—and we will continue to provide support to the Ukrainians in their self-defence. The Secretary-General of NATO has made it very clear that it would be wrong for NATO to engage directly in the conflict with Russia that is the inevitable by-product of a no-fly zone. Putin is desperately trying to paint this as western aggression against Russia. We must not do anything that will allow him to perpetrate that perverse distortion of reality.

Is my right hon. Friend having conversations about contingency plans for what will happen if, God forbid, Russian forces start to deliberately attack nuclear facilities near the western borders? Those plans would need to lead to a mass movement of the refugees already in that area. Would he also agree that that would pretty much constitute an attack on NATO allies?

We take attacks, or the threat of attacks, against nuclear facilities very seriously. Nuclear safeguarding remains a priority for this Government. I will not be drawn on the conditions of what might be defined as an attack on NATO, but nevertheless we have made it absolutely clear that NATO is a defensive organisation. It has never expanded by force or coercion. Our support to the Ukrainians is steadfast, but there is a clear dividing line between an attack on one of our good friends—Ukraine—and an attack on a NATO member state.

This International Women’s Day, hundreds of thousands of women are massed in the freezing cold at the borders of Ukraine, traumatised children in their arms, as they flee from Putin’s bloody, unprovoked war. Families have been separated, thousands of homes have been destroyed, and whole cities have been cut off from water, food, healthcare and other basic services. This is an evolving humanitarian situation, and the pace and scale of displacement is unlike anything we have seen in Europe for a generation. Some 2 million refugees have already fled the country, and millions more may cross the borders in the coming days and weeks.

Can the Minister tell us how much of the £220 million announced for humanitarian aid is actually in Ukraine or helping those who have fled its borders, and will he agree to provide us with a monthly breakdown of pledges against what has been disbursed? We have to act swiftly and we need to know what has been disbursed to date, so will the Minister tell us?

As the hon. Lady says, this is a rapidly evolving situation. We have made recent announcements of humanitarian support, which are very significant—the largest in the world at this stage. We are more than happy to keep the House up to date with the disbursal of that humanitarian aid, and will do so through the normal means.