Media caption,

Home Secretary Priti Patel says changes could allow 100,000 more Ukrainians to come to the UK

Ukrainians fleeing Russia’s invasion can come to the UK if they have relatives who are British nationals, under changes announced by ministers.

Home Secretary Priti Patel said an extension of visa rules to “immediate family members” would allow Ukrainians to “seek sanctuary” in the UK.

The PM said the UK would not “turn our backs in Ukraine’s hour of need”.

But Labour says the visa rules are “unclear” and confusing for Ukrainians.

In Parliament on Monday, the home secretary said the first phase of a “bespoke humanitarian route” had been created for Ukrainians to enter the UK.

Ms Patel and Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said changes to visa rules would allow “any person settled in the UK” to bring over their immediate Ukrainian family members.

Later, in a letter to MPs, Ms Patel said Ukrainians “already settled in the UK” could now bring over their “immediate Ukrainian family members”.

She said that relatives not falling within the government’s definition of immediate family “can apply ordinarily under the points-based immigration system”.

Ms Patel said she would not waive the visa requirement, citing “the strongest security advice” around concerns the Russian military was “infiltrating” Ukrainian forces and posed a security threat to the UK.

“We know all too well what Putin’s Russia is willing to do, even on our soil, as we saw through the Salisbury attack,” Ms Patel said.

Media caption,

Dr Nataliya Rumyantseva tells how her mother made the journey from Ukraine to Hungary and Paris but failed to get to the UK

Labour’s shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper said the details of Ms Patel’s changes were “extremely unclear” and asked for clarification.

“The UK has always done its bit to help those fleeing war in Europe. But I have to say to her: why is there so much confusion about this?” Ms Cooper said.

Elsewhere, the EU has supported plans to accept Ukrainian refugees for up to three years, without asking them to apply for asylum.

Speaking to BBC Breakfast earlier, Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said the government would study the EU’s offer and decide on next steps.

The government has been facing growing calls to waive visa rules for Ukrainians seeking sanctuary in the UK amid the ongoing Russian invasion.

In a letter to Prime Minister Boris Johnson, a group of 44 Conservative MPs have urged the government to “go further” and “act jointly” with European allies to help Ukrainian refugees.

They said they hoped ministers would “seek a flexible and pragmatic approach to those Ukrainians wishing to seek temporary refuge in the UK”.

Image source, Getty Images

Image caption,

Hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians have been displaced by Russian’s invasion

Home Office guidance was updated on Sunday evening for British nationals who want to bring their Ukrainian family to the UK.

Family members can apply for a family migration visa for free. The processing centre in Kyiv is closed, but the office in the western city of Lviv is open, and people can apply from nearby countries.

Family members eligible to apply for these visas are a spouse or civil partner, an unmarried partner of at least two years, children under the age of 18, a parent if their grandchild is under the age of 18, or adult relatives who are carers.

Home Office sources have told the BBC the same criteria will apply to the relatives of people who are settled in the UK.

Speaking to the media, Mr Johnson said: “We want to be as generous as we possibly can, and certainly we want people who have relatives in Ukraine to be able to bring them over as fast as possible.

“We want to make sure that we have routes for people fleeing disaster, war, persecution in Ukraine to come here.”

He also said the UK would be “partnering up with some of the countries in the immediate vicinity of Ukraine to help bring people over”.

Mr Johnson also announced a further £40m of humanitarian aid for the country.

UK falls short of EU’s open-door approach

Britain finds itself well behind Europe in its offer of sanctuary to Ukrainians fleeing the war.

The prime minister has insisted the UK is “way out in front” in its willingness to help, and Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said the government was “urgently” looking at what more it could do.

But what has emerged is a scheme to assist family members of Ukrainians already in the UK, far short of the open-door approach of countries in the EU.

The Refugee Council has said the UK government’s response looks mean-spirited and unwelcoming to desperate people.

The Home Office has been resisting calls to establish a safe route, saying Ukrainians fleeing the war should get visas to work and study in the UK in the normal way, through the points-based immigration system.

Earlier Ms Cooper expressed concern the changes would not apply to wider family members.

“What are they thinking? What about people struggling to get elderly parents here, or Ukrainians who can’t come stay with sister or brother here,” she tweeted.

She said it was “shameful of the government to refuse to even help other relatives in a terrible European war like this” and urged ministers to extend the offer to wider family members and “set out a broader sanctuary route so UK also does its bit to help other Ukrainians too”.

Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said the Home Office should give entry now on humanitarian grounds “to any Ukrainian seeking refuge in the UK”, and to “sort paperwork later”.

Conservative MP and chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee, Tom Tugendhat said, having spoken to ministers, that he felt it was “likely” the UK would move to a position similar to the EU that has said it will take all Ukrainian refugees for three years “with no questions asked”.

Russia attacks Ukraine: More coverage