STEPHEN GLOVER: Why has Patel made it hard for people to flee Ukraine?
STEPHEN GLOVER: If Priti Patel pulls off plan to process boat migrants in Rwanda, I’ll take my hat off to her… But why are we making it so difficult for refugees to leave war-torn Ukraine and find safety in this country?
Boris Johnson has reportedly described the Home Office as a ‘basket case’. Former Labour Home Secretary John Reid once said it was ‘not fit for purpose’.
Any sensible politician would prefer to try to cross the Sahara Desert with a leaky water bottle than become Home Secretary. Success is inconceivable. Survival is the best that can be hoped for.
Even that can be a stretch. Of the past ten Home Secretaries, five have been sacked or resigned. Priti Patel, the present incumbent, may soon add her name to the list of casualties.
I have some sympathy for her. She has been ground down by the bureaucratic incompetence and in-built inertia of the Home Office. Early in her stint, she exploded in rage against its top civil servant, Sir Philip Rutnam, who stomped off. It can’t be said that his departure has made any discernible difference.
Priti Patel has been ground down by the bureaucratic incompetence and in-built inertia of the Home Office
Ms Patel would probably have succeeded if she had been offered another, less intractable department. As it is, her own shortcomings have compounded those of the Home Office.
Would-be refugees from Ukraine are facing administrative obstruction, even though more than 200,000 generous people have offered them places in their homes. Meanwhile, migrants are crossing the Channel in record numbers, with over 3,000 arriving last month.
It’s fair to say that Priti Patel and the Home Office have failed to stop illegal migrants arriving in large numbers, while they appear to be throwing obstacles in the path of Ukrainian refugees.
No wonder that Ms Patel — once the toast of the Tory grassroots who admired her can-do talk — got one of the lowest ratings of any Cabinet minister in a poll published earlier this week by the Conservative Home website.
Why are we making it so difficult for refugees to leave war-torn, devastated Ukraine and find safety in this country where, as I say, there are more than 200,000 people willing to offer accommodation for at least six months?
Poland has welcomed over two million of them, no questions asked. We have accepted around 30,000 so far. There are two schemes: one for those with relatives here, and one for those who are sponsored.
The latter group is encountering the greatest impediments. At the end of last week — I don’t suppose the figures have improved greatly since then — out of 5,200 people who had been given visas under the scheme, only 500 had reached the UK.
Applicants, who are inevitably distressed, have to complete a 51-page application form. It includes questions such as: ‘Are you a war criminal?’ What idiocy. If Vladimir Putin were to apply, he would presumably say ‘No’. War criminals are like that.
No less absurdly, parents are asked whether toddlers have ever been given a speeding ticket or have a criminal record. Which species of sadists devise these forms? What world do they live in?
Priti Patel and the Home Office have failed to stop illegal migrants arriving in large numbers, while they appear to be throwing obstacles in the path of Ukrainian refugees
If you are a Ukrainian who turns up in Britain without having filled in the form, you will be unable to make an application because some unhelpful bureaucrat has decreed that it should be so.
Yesterday’s Mail carried a story that illustrated how jobsworths, presumably with the blessing of the Home Office, are doing their utmost to frustrate the smooth working of the scheme.
Mike Rundell is a wealthy architect with a large, agreeable house in South London. He is one of the 200,000-plus people who have offered to provide a haven for Ukrainian refugees.
But he was told by a busybody working for Lambeth Council that he will need to make certain ‘upgrades’ before Ukrainian refugees are allowed in his house. These include lockable windows, closable doors, extra fire alarms on each floor and a ‘Gas safe’ certificate.
These people have been driven out of a country where Russian soldiers are murdering thousands of civilians, raping women and starving Ukrainians into submission. And here is an official insisting on closable doors and fire alarms. I despair.
Priti Patel has a notoriously explosive temper, and I daresay such stories could send her into orbit. But why can’t she do something about it? Why doesn’t she cut through the nonsense and simplify the forms, speed up the application process and tell officials to stop insisting on damn fool conditions?
One of the Home Secretary’s proposals is to send illegal migrants to a foreign country, probably Rwanda, where their claims for asylum would be processed. The hope is that migrants may think twice before crossing the Channel if they think they may end up in Rwanda
It’s hard, working with inhumane, officious or stupid people — of course it is. I feel for her. And yet no one forced her to be Home Secretary. Now that she is, she should be doing a better job.
That is also true in respect of the thousands of illegal migrants who continue to arrive in ever-increasing numbers on our shores, despite the Conservatives having made a solemn pledge to protect our borders.
To be fair, this is a huge problem and there are no easy solutions. Nor has Ms Patel been sitting on her hands. She has produced the Nationality and Borders Bill, designed to deter illegal migrants, which the House of Lords has been watering down this week.
One of the Home Secretary’s proposals is to send illegal migrants to a foreign country, probably Rwanda, where their claims for asylum would be processed.
The hope is that migrants may think twice before crossing the Channel if they think they may end up in Rwanda.
It is an imaginative idea but is it workable? For one thing, it has been estimated the cost of the policy could be as much £100,000 per asylum seeker. For another, lawyers are queuing up to challenge the Government’s right under international law to transfer migrants to an impoverished country thousands of miles away.
If you are a Ukrainian who turns up in Britain without having filled in the form, you will be unable to make an application because some unhelpful bureaucrat has decreed that it should be so. Pictured: A heavily damaged apartment building following a Russian attack in the center of Borodyanka, Ukraine, Wednesday, April 6
If Priti Patel pulls off her extraordinary plan, I shall take my hat off to her. But I suspect that if it goes ahead (Boris Johnson is reported to be wobbling) it will meet with insuperable resistance. A less ornate and more practical approach seems advisable.
By the way, there are some who accuse the Government of double standards in welcoming Ukrainians — at any rate on paper — while trying, albeit ineffectually, to discourage illegal migrants.
But there are important distinctions. Ukrainians are fleeing one of the most savage wars the world has seen since 1945. According to Priti Patel, though some have questioned her figures, 70 per cent of asylum seekers are economic migrants.
Even though there are some who are fleeing conflict among the migrants gathered in France, their predicament, for the most part, can scarcely be compared with the plight of people driven out of their country. Moreover, unlike the migrants, Ukrainians are not seeking permanent residence.
Ukrainians are fleeing one of the most savage wars the world has seen since 1945. According to Priti Patel, though some have questioned her figures, 70 per cent of asylum seekers are economic migrants. Pictured: A monument to Taras Shevchenko, a Ukrainian poet and a national symbol, seen with traces of bullets against the background of an apartment house ruined in the Russian shelling in the central square in Borodyanka
When will the Government do more to help them? The new refugees minister, Lord Harrington, has said he wants to reduce the time for an application to be approved from at least a week to 48 hours.
His heart is in the right place, as I am sure is the Home Secretary’s. The trouble is that they are riding a blundering, heartless leviathan called the Home Office, and so far seem incapable of imposing their will.
What has happened is shaming. Britain led the way in arming and supporting the Ukrainian government, but it is the laggard of Europe when it comes to helping that country’s refugees. I am afraid much of the blame attaches to Priti Patel.
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