The invasion of Ukraine by Russia is shocking and disgraceful. It is the latest terrible aggression by the Putin regime and the latest damaging conflict in our world, with so many people being killed or injured, losing loved ones and seeing their homes destroyed. The world, and we in the UK, have been too tolerant of war and violence. Now we see it on our screens daily. Moreover, with Russia making comments about nuclear weapons and with talk that it might use chemical weapons, the risk of escalation is clear.
Christians on the Left has always been internationalist. Our constitution states that members pledge to pray and work for “peace and reconciliation between nations and peoples and cultures together with worldwide nuclear and general disarmament”. This is something we reaffirm in these times. Praying and working for peace and reconciliation are activities. They require all of us, including politicians and those in government, to be proactive. This is what we want to see in the UK government and what we encourage in the Labour Party. Russian forces should withdraw from Ukraine and Ukraine secured from future aggression. The Ukraine government should be given practical support to defend Ukraine and provide aid to its citizens.
It is important that we uphold good values in our own country. That includes welcoming refugees, something we have been proud of doing in the past.. Yet the Government is moving towards an asylum system in the UK that will criminalise most refugees seeking sanctuary here, through a model which undermines international law and practice. The deteriorating situation in Ukraine has highlighted that refusing settled refugee status to those families escaping persecution and war because they have travelled through another country en route to the UK, is unworkable and immoral.
Christians on the Left believe the Government should establish safe and legal routes to enable families to claim asylum, so they are able to reach safety in the UK and start to rebuild their lives. This should include a commitment to an ambitious target for resettlement, an extension to family reunions and further work on humanitarian visas. It is also essential that there is a complete visa waiver for Ukrainians escaping Putin’s unrelenting bombardment of their country. They should be met with a policy of compassionate welcome, rather than bureaucratic hurdles adding to their trauma and loss.
The Homes for Ukraine scheme, and the work being done on community sponsorship, are welcome steps but there remain serious questions regarding matching services and the need for increased support for local authorities to help move refugees from hotels into longer-term accommodation. This applies to Afghan refugees too. The Government needs to provide urgent answers as safeguarding cannot be left to chance. It also needs to halt proposals in the Nationality and Borders Bill which would criminalise refugees.
4 Apr 2022
Written By Marianna Masters