A COUNTY Durham MP has pressed the government to ensure that Ukrainians seeking refuge in the UK from Russia’s invasion can gain sanctuary as a matter of urgency.  

Taking to Prime Minister’s Questions today (March 2), Labour MP for the City of Durham, Mary Kelly Foy, was quick to highlight the “overwhelming response” of the people of Durham, but equally fast to point out the ‘slow’ response of Prime Minister Boris Johnson in setting up a new sponsorship route for Ukrainians without family in the UK to seek sanctuary in the country.

Aiming a question at the Prime Minister today, Ms Foy said: “Does the Prime Minister agree with me that we need a faster and more effective way of offering sanctuary to the people of Ukraine than the Government's current proposals?”

Read more: Ukraine: County Durham severs ties with Russian twin city Kostroma

The question was heard from the galleries by Vadym Prystaiko, the Ukrainian ambassador to the UK, who was a guest at Prime Minister’s Questions, and comes after the MP wrote to the Home Secretary earlier this week calling for the expansion of the family migration visa – an expansion that was later confirmed by the Home Secretary yesterday (March 1).

The lack of announcement on this new sponsorship scheme has also been criticised by the Refugee Council, who said “this is an urgent situation that requires an urgent response.”

In response to Mrs Foy, Prime Minister Boris Johnson highlighted that the Government were in discussions with Poland about helping vulnerable Ukrainians into the UK. However, he did not commit to renewing the Government’s proposals to offer a faster route to sanctuary for Ukrainians, instead stating he was “proud” of the record of the Government.

The Northern Echo: City of Durham MP, Mary Kelly Foy. Picture: NORTHERN ECHO.City of Durham MP, Mary Kelly Foy. Picture: NORTHERN ECHO.

He said: “I thank her very much; I know the sympathies of the whole house are with her and what she’s trying to do.

“I talked to our Polish friends yesterday about what we can do in partnership with them to bring people directly to the UK who are fleeing to Poland. And I’ve set out to the House, and I know my Rt Hon friend the Home Secretary has already, the big, big package of measures that we’re putting in to help people fleeing Ukraine.

“I just want to repeat look at the numbers we took from Afghanistan, look at the numbers of BNOs from Hong Kong – huge numbers of people that have come to the UK and I think that we’ve settled 25 thousand vulnerable people since 2015, which is more than any other European country, so we should be proud of our record.”

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In the aftermath of Prime Minister’s Questions, Ms foy told The Northern Echo that Mr Johnson was “patting himself on the back,” rather than giving Ukrainian’s reassurances.

She said: “As I told the Prime Minister, I have been overwhelmed by the good will of the people of Durham. We have a proud history in this country of helping refugees in time of need that we need to remember.

“The people of Durham are ready to help, but they need the Government to put in place schemes to help Ukrainians seeking sanctuary in the UK quickly. The Prime Minister decided to pat himself on the back, rather than offer assurances to residents of Durham, who have kindly offered their homes to Ukrainians, that their generosity will be received and utilised soon.”

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