A short letter to Priti Patel

March 10, 2022 10 Comments

Dear Priti Patel

I’m writing to you with a simple request: to search your conscience. 

Just to avoid doubt, I don’t mean your political calculus.  You don’t need any encouragement to exercise that.  No, I mean your personal moral conscience.

As the UK Home Secretary and a senior member of the UK government you’re responsible for policy on admitting refugees from Ukraine. 

Can you really think that your response to the refugee crisis is remotely adequate?  The latest estimate of the number of people, mainly women and children, fleeing Ukraine is two million.  So far, your officials have admitted around 300.  That’s around 0.00015% of the total.  By contrast, the Irish government estimates that it may admit over 80,000 refugees to its country, which is a fraction of the UK’s size.

There are about 5,000 Ukrainians living in Britain, and possibly 10,000 relatives from Ukraine who might seek refuge with them. But why should you restrict entry to those with relatives already here?  Don’t we have a duty to all refugees who seek our help?

Why do you insist on complex visa and other paper requirements before you’ll consider admitting refugees?  The UK is the only European country that doesn’t let refugees in without a visa.  Why can’t you make your checks once people have arrived here?  Why didn’t you recognise the gravity of the crisis from the beginning?

Why do you treat potential refugees to our country as potential criminals or terrorists, putting every possible bureaucratic barrier in their way in an attempt to resist them?  It’s hard to interpret the notice you posted in Calais telling applicants to go to Paris or Brussels as anything but a callous deterrent. 

And why did you tell MPs that there was a visa centre in Calais, when you knew there wasn’t?

Could incompetence explain your behaviour? Well, in part, maybe, because you and your colleagues hardly arrived at your government positions through being efficient and effective. Your friend Gavin Williamson, after all, has just been knighted for services to incompetence. But I fear the real explanation is ideological and cultural: an inveterate and heartless dislike of immigrants and foreigners. It’s a prejudice widely shared in your party.

I realise that your Brexit government cares little about the standing of the UK in the world.  But our real political leader – I mean our First Minister, Mark Drakeford, not that malign buffoon in Downing Street – was right, was he not, when he suggested the other day that the rest of the world holds us in contempt for our calculated indifference to refugees.  He’s eager for Wales to welcome Ukrainian refugees.  But, of course, he’s entirely dependent on the decisions you make (yet another reason, by the way, for us in Wales to be wholly free from Westminster rule).

Let’s return to your personal conscience.  I’m surprised that you seem to have forgotten that you owe your existence in the UK to the relative generosity of a previous UK government (your parents moved here from Uganda after Idi Amin expelled them in 1972.)  Memory loss is the only explanation for your promotion of the anti-refugee Nationalities and Borders Bill, which undermines our international agreements, and your denial of rights to Ukrainian refugees today.

Maybe it’s not too late.  Maybe you’ll come across your conscience somewhere and have a change of heart.  A generous approach to Ukrainian refugees seeking our help is surely one of the few really effective ways in which this country can have any influence on lessening the effects of this terrible war.

If you don’t relent, I fear you’ll go down in history as one of the most inhumane and uncaring of all Home Secretaries (and remember, the competition is stiff).

I look forward to your prompt response.

Yours sincerely,

Andrew Green.

Comments (10)

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  1. I share your outrage. The UK Visa Service is run by TLSconnect, a private sector company employed by UK government to make money and support their hostile environment worldwide.

  2. Alun Burge says:

    I think this is what they call ‘impact’. One open letter and she crumbled…

  3. Amanda says:

    Thank you for this very eloquent, powerful letter. I agree with every word and I am in despair over the incompetence and lack of humanity shown by the UK government.

  4. Gill Lewis says:

    Well said Andrew.

  5. Joe Stanford says:

    Hmmm. Refugees from Ukraine. Not sure if you’re aware of the situ, but those in the war zones are ethnic-Russian Ukrainians who asked for help from Moscow after being shelled for 8 years by the Azov and other militia – a shelling campaign to which there are multiple eye-witness testimonies. The western parts of Ukraine (apart from ethnic-Russian areas) are shipping out temporarily in case the war escalates which – with NATO involved, is inevitable. The people of the Donbas are preferring to go to Russia – after all, Zelensky has nationalised all TV channels – Ukrainian-only – and banned Russian in schools. Just imaging how the French Canadians would feel (or France) if French was banned in Canada. They’d have something to say about that. After the splitting up of the Soviet Bloc, Ukraine’s economy shrunk by 30% and 6M Ukrainians left for work in other countries. Money funneled in – by Russia mainly – got soaked up by the oligarchs – of which Zelensky is one.

    • Andrew Green says:

      Thank you. I’m sure Ukraine is not a simple story of angels v devils, but people more expert than me would probably take issue with many of your assertions here.

  6. David Jones says:

    One of the ridiculous aspects of the refugees policy is that they are unable to take on paid employment until their status is confirmed. This can take a long time. At a time when we face labour shortages, this needs to change.

  7. Ash Dell says:

    I wouldn’t mind helping real refugees but the vast majority coming over are free loaders looking to abuse the universal credit system. they want all the free hand outs. We discovered this when we graciously offered our house to the homes for Ukrainian schemes, had to jump through all the checks, DBRS, Gas and fire safety and home checks and yet the people that arrived were just economic migrants not refugees who still had online jobs in Ukraine but wanted to claim unemployment benefit.

    • Andrew Green says:

      Do you think it is right to generalise (‘the vast majority [of refugees]’) from the apparent experience of a single example (your own Ukrainian guests)?

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