UNHCR calls on the United Kingdom to establish new 3-year visa route for all Ukrainians already in the UK

UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency is warning that thousands of Ukrainians who were already in the United Kingdom (UK) at the time of the Russian invasion risk being left in a precarious state unless the government moves to quickly grant leave to remain for these individuals.

Whilst UNHCR welcomes the concessions made by the Government to allow Ukrainians to apply while in-country onto the existing work and family routes, there are many Ukrainians in the UK who will not qualify under these visa categories.

Workers on short-term work visas are among those affected, including in particular agricultural workers who are no longer needed by their employers or who cannot continue in that line of work.

UNHCR is calling on the government to ensure that Ukrainians already in the UK be granted leave to remain on the same terms as the leave granted to people admitted under the Ukraine Family Scheme and ‘Homes for Ukraine’ scheme, namely, leave to remain for three years, with the right to work and access to public funds and services.

“While it’s encouraging to see the UK take steps to welcome thousands of Ukrainian refugees to the UK, we mustn’t forget the thousands that were already here when the war started in February. They too can’t now return and need legal security in order to become self-sufficient,” said Larry Bottinick, Acting UNHCR Representative to the UK.

UNHCR also calls on the UK to extend family reunion rights to all Ukrainians in the UK. Whilst UNHCR has welcomed the fact that the Family Reunion visa route enables Ukrainians to join close and extended family in the UK, not all Ukrainians currently in the UK, for example those on short term visas, are able to bring their family out through this scheme.

At present, many Ukrainian students, workers, or visitors living across the UK would be willing to offer shelter to their family members but are unable to do so under current Home Office policies.

Recognising the essential importance of family unity and in a spirit of international cooperation and responsibility sharing, UNHCR is calling for family reunion rights to be extended to all Ukrainians.

“UNHCR is aware of seasonal agricultural workers who left their partners and children behind this past winter, thinking they would only be separated for a few months. They are now unable to go home, but also unable to be bring their loved ones to safety in the UK. At such a distressing time for Ukrainians, it is important that the Government takes all necessary steps to ensure that those seeking to be reunited with their families can do so,” Bottinick added.

Please find a link here to UNHCR’s proposals and observations in full.