We, as a Project supporting voluntary sector organisations in the West Midlands working with migrants, have watched with alarm and concern at unfolding events following the invasion of Ukraine. Our thoughts are with the people of Ukraine and their neighbours as they are dealing with this developing crisis.

We wish to show support for Ukrainians here in this country, who are working to organise aid and relief whilst worried for friends and relatives caught up in the conflict. At the same time, we recognise that we have also many Russian and Russian speaking members of our community who will be adversely impacted by the actions of the Russian government.

We support efforts to help the growing numbers of refugees escaping this conflict, especially fundraising efforts in the region supporting refugees fleeing Ukraine, with has especially impacted communities in the region that are already marginalised.

The response of the UK government to the invasion of Ukraine has again highlighted the hostile and contradictory policies that are held towards refugees.  The bureaucratic process to apply for visas has led to misery for desperate Ukrainian families frustrated by the system – with tiny numbers being granted compared to other European countries.

Whilst the recently announced ‘humanitarian sponsorship’ scheme for groups to host Ukrainians fleeing the conflict is a welcome step, it will only offer part of an overall solution and cannot be the whole answer. The government needs to listen to the advice of community sponsorship groups who have done incredible work supporting refugees from other conflicts, often whilst dealing with needless bureaucracy in trying to provide assistance.

On a wider level, the government’s insistence on restricting its response to a limited ‘bespoke’ approach is a desperate attempt to show it is responding on Ukraine while sealing this off from its wider hostile stance on refugees. Those fleeing other conflicts around the world, from Afghanistan to Syria, are no less deserving of the sanctuary set out in our international commitments in the UN refugee convention. The government’s Nationality and Borders Bill that is in its final stages in Parliament, reneges on these commitments. Those arriving into the region fleeing Ukraine will join a sadly growing number facing increasing challenges to effectively settling and building new lives. We urge Local Authorities and partners to work with us to not only challenge these national policies, but to dismantle the  systemic barriers that  hamper many in accessing not only training and employment, but crucial basic needs such as healthcare, adequate housing and other fundamental rights.

You can find details of support available in the region here: UKRAINE – Migration Policy and Practice