Davey to Truss: Emergency airlifts for refugees on Polish border needed

Ed Davey has called for an emergency airlift for Ukrainian refugees on the Polish border who want to reach the UK. In a letter today to the Foreign Secretary and Home Secretary, Ed Davey has suggested the UK Government must now provide free flights to the UK, with coaches to the nearest Polish airports from key border crossing points and welcoming reception centres for the refugees on arrival at the UK.

The call comes following the Liberal Democrat Leader’s visit to the Polish border this week to meet with Ukrainian refugees and the charities supporting them. In contrast to the swift action of the British public to offer shelter and countless volunteers from the UK to help with the humanitarian crisis, Ed Davey was appalled by the absence of any UK Government personnel to provide swift and safe passage to those fleeing to the UK.

Boris Johnson’s reckless dismissal of security warnings about one wealthy Russian contrasts with his heartlessly inadequate response to countless Ukrainian women and children fleeing Putin’s bombs. This shames him and his Government.

Emergency airlifts are now the best guarantee for these refugees to get to the UK safely and swiftly, to the kindness and compassion of the British public waiting for them.

It was shocking to see so many other nations united and already helping refugees at a humanitarian aid centre near the Ukrainian-Polish border, whilst the UK Government had no-one.

The queues of refugees are exhausted and traumatised. Surely these families have been through enough. It’s urgent that people are now airlifted to safety and help so they can start rebuilding their lives.

Letter to Liz Truss, Foreign Secretary and Priti Patel, Home Secretary

Dear Secretary of State,

I am writing to urge you to launch an immediate, emergency airlift operation to resettle Ukrainian refugees currently arriving in Poland who want to come to the UK. Given the scale of the Ukrainian refugee crisis, it is only right that our country plays its part.

I have just returned from the Ukraine-Poland border. There I met refugees who have been forced to flee Putin’s assault on their homes, as well as incredible people from all over the world who have come to help.

I was proud to see many British aid workers and volunteers providing support, but I was appalled by the lack of any organised UK Government sponsored or supported welcome and the absence of UK Government personnel on the ground at the border, to help Ukrainian refugees who want to come to the UK. There was no-one from the UK government at the border or at the Humanitarian Aid Centre (where I counted representatives from 19 other countries) or at the train station I visited. And these were all key centres for arriving Ukrainian refugees. I spoke to British volunteer aid workers who had gone up and down the Ukrainian-Polish border over the last week who confirmed that they had not seen any UK Government-sponsored presence at all. And a representative of Poland’s leading charity there, Caritas, also confirmed that, unlike other countries, the UK appeared not to be present. Yet I met people who are desperate to come to the UK – often to join family members. However, there was no one from the Government and no-one supported or sponsored by the UK Government to help them to get here or even to explain how they might get to the UK.

In just the past few days, more than 100,000 people across the UK have offered to host refugees fleeing Ukraine – demonstrating clearly the immense compassion of the British people. The Government must urgently step up its response to match that spirit of generosity.

Since the very start of this war, the Liberal Democrats have been calling for a resettlement programme, working with the UNHCR and other refugee agencies to bring Ukrainian refugees to the UK, as we did for those fleeing Assad’s war in Syria.

Without some sort of resettlement scheme, ideally far more open and flexible than past schemes, many of these refugees will never be able to get to the UK to take up the incredible offers of help from people in our country. There is also a very real danger that some refugees will fall into the hands of human traffickers and people smugglers.

We must prevent that, by providing safe and fast transportation for Ukrainian refugees seeking to come to the UK. The Government should send personnel to the Ukrainian border now, ideally working with the UK’s own specialist refugee and aid charities, to form new welcome groups with the charities already on the ground.

So I believe the UK Government must now provide free flights to the UK, with coaches to the nearest Polish airports from key border crossing points and also establish welcoming reception centres for the refugees here on arrival at the UK.

It is very frustrating that, despite the many recent U-turns on visas, the Government still refuses to act on resettlement and to facilitate safe and quick passage to the UK and I urge you to do so now.

I would like to request an urgent meeting, at your earliest convenience, to discuss how the Government can better support and welcome to the UK the refugees from Putin’s attack on Ukraine.

I look forward to hearing from you at your very earliest convenience.

Yours sincerely,

Ed Davey MP
Leader of the Liberal Democrats

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  • I very much welcome this. We need to be leaders in welcoming people escaping from a war zone. We also need to be planning how to support people to return after the war has ended. This should include the ordinary Russians who find that family members are being killed in what they were told was to be a sort of peace keeping operation.
    In other words the present crisis needs better organised action by our government. So well done to our leader. We must also prepare ourselves for the future.

  • While appreciating the need to welcome Ukrainian refugees speedily, air transport is not the solution. We must respect climate change as an existential challenge and even during these dire times not add to our aready high emissions. Rail and coach are more environmentally friendly options, especially because many of these people are young and aware of our climate challenges.

  • David Garlick 18th Mar '22 - 3:51pm

    As a GLD and environmental campaigner of many decades normally I would wholeheartedly agree.I do think that in these circumstances both the refugees and Poland need a speedy response. (Some response from HMG would be welcome!) I would accept flights in this instance. (unless the gov’t offer free guided coach and train journeys that can start now…)

  • Helen Dudden 19th Mar '22 - 2:21pm

    I hope that it’s not forgotten that Ukraine is the homeland, I know how upset I have felt for Ukrainians.
    Driven out, Putin must pay, while this government were getting caught up in Partygate, the world was being changed.

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