Lib Dems call for Priti Patel to be sacked over handling of Ukraine refugee crisis

Leader Ed Davey’s comments come as Michael Gove announces details of ‘homes for Ukraine’ scheme

The Liberal Democrat leader, Ed Davey, has called for the home secretary, Priti Patel, to be sacked over her handling of the Ukrainian refugee crisis.

“Priti Patel’s response to this humanitarian catastrophe – the biggest in Europe since world war two – is utterly shameful,” Davey told the Lib Dems’ spring conference.

“She has answered desperation with delays. Crisis with confusion. Pain with paperwork. It couldn’t be clearer that Priti Patel is not up to the job. The buck stops with the prime minister. So Boris Johnson must sack her, now.”

The government has faced furious criticism in recent days over its slow and bureaucratic response to the Ukraine refugee crisis, including from its own MPs, after ministers decided not to follow the EU’s lead and waive the need for visas.

Patel told MPs last week it was important for the government to carry out security checks, but some of her cabinet colleagues have been irritated at the way the issue has been handled.

The levelling up secretary, Michael Gove, has announced details of a “homes for Ukraine” scheme, which will allow individuals, charities and companies to sponsor refugees. He said local councils would be given £10,000 for each person welcomed into their area under the plan, and he called for “every available bed” to be offered.

Households will be invited to register from Monday if they are willing to provide a room for a Ukrainian refugee. Gove said charities could then help to match them with individuals seeking sanctuary.

“We want to make sure that every available bed that we have in this country that can be made available, every available home that can be made available, to those who are fleeing persecution, is mobilised, and we know that there a large number of people in this country, generous-hearted and in a position to provide homes – and businesses and charities as well,” he said on Sunday.

“What we’re doing is saying we the government will act in solidarity and in cooperation with you.” He said the government would pay £350 a month to families hosting a refugee, which they would have to agree to do for at least six months.

The refugees would be allowed to work, Gove said. They would be entitled to NHS care and their children could attend local schools while they were in the UK. He said local authorities would be offered £10,000 for each individual to help facilitate that, with additional payments for children.

Gove said he thought the scheme could lead to tens of thousands of refugees being housed in the UK. He also clarified reports that he was planning to seize the homes of oligarchs who have been placed under sanctions in order to house refugees.

He said: “I want to explore an option that would allow us to use the homes and properties of sanctioned individuals, for as long as they are sanctioned, for humanitarian and other purposes.”

He acknowledged there was a “quite a high legal bar to cross”, however, and said even if it did go ahead, it would not mean “permanent confiscation” of the properties involved. “While you are not using or profiting from it, if we can use it in order to help others, let’s do that,” he told BBC One’s Sunday Morning programme.

Gove said the UK had accepted 3,000 applications for visas and pointed to Patel’s announcement last week of a new web-based application process due to come into force on Tuesday.

Asked whether he would be signing up to provide a room to a refugee himself, Gove said: “I am going to make sure that I do everything I can as an individual to support. Every individual will have their own circumstances.”

Responding to the Liberal Democrats’ criticism, a government spokesperson said: “The home secretary this week announced changes that will make it simpler and quicker for those fleeing Putin’s barbaric war to come to the UK, while balancing national security considerations given the real and varied threats we face.

“Since 2015, the UK has resettled more refugees through safe and legal routes than any other European country. Under the home secretary’s tenure, the Home Office has welcomed the final of the 20,000 refugees from Syria, 20,000 Afghans and 97,000 Hong Kongers. The facts just do not support these accusations.”

The Irish taoiseach, Micheál Martin, told the BBC on Sunday that his country had already accepted 5,500 refugees from Ukraine. “Our primary impulse is to assist those fleeing war. The Irish people are very seized by the series of atrocities that are going on, what we are witnessing on our screens is really shocking people and there’s huge human empathy there,” he said.

Last week the Irish government said Patel had contacted Dublin to raise security concerns about the number of people Ireland was accepting and the risk that they could enter Northern Ireland.


Heather Stewart

The GuardianTramp

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