Priti Patel ‘doesn’t want immigration’ says Amanda Holden
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Although the PM has faced calls to resign over lockdown-breaking parties, he has won respect through his leadership over Ukraine. Forty-six percent of respondents approved of his response to the crisis, with fewer than one in four (24 percent) disapproving, putting him far ahead of rivals. But Home Secretary Ms Patel was the only leading political figure in the poll who had a higher disapproval (33 percent) than approval (20 percent) rating over her performance on Ukraine, the poll by Redfield & Wilton Strategies found.
She has come under intense pressure over the slow pace at which visas have been awarded.
Refugees Minister Lord Har-rington made headlines when he said it was “hard to disagree” that delays in processing visas were a “disgrace” and on Friday Ms Patel apologised for “frustrating” delays.
Yesterday, the head of the British Red Cross criticised the “long, complex” application process for Ukrainian refugees seeking sanctuary in the UK and called for the removal of visa requirements.
Mike Adamson, chief executive, said only a “small trickle” of refugees are reaching the UK and that it should be made “much easier to come here”.
“The whole of Europe and many other countries have waived their visa requirements,” he told BBC Breakfast. “Most Ukrainians have biometric passports so we can do checks on them when they get here – we can find out who they are.”
He added: “But the key thing is we get far more people here and then Britain would be playing its part at scale alongside our partners across Europe.
“And we would also, of course, be showing solidarity and practical support to the people of Ukraine in this terrible situation.”
A village in Oxfordshire that prepared homes for 45 refugees has only seen one family arrive. Polly Vacher, 78, who is co-ordinating the project, said people in North Moreton have been ready to welcome refugees for more than three weeks.
“The houses have been ready and the support network is there,” she said. “Our villagers, who are waiting already with lots of support, can’t get the refugees because the visas don’t come through.
“These people have been through the most terrible situation.”
Meanwhile, an NHS nurse waiting for her Homes For Ukraine application to be processed said she is on her “hands and knees, begging”.
Lauren Corbishley, 43, from Dawlish in Devon, applied to the scheme on March 18 to bring three members of a family to the UK.
But aside from the council making inquiries about a DBS check, she has heard nothing back.
Ms Corbishley said she has “two beautiful spare rooms waiting” for Yuliia, husband Glib, and their daughter, Maryna, 17, who have been in Warsaw since March 10.
She said “I’m basically on my hands and knees, begging.
“Help me. I’ve given this country two years of my time with this pandemic. I am not rich – I just want to give something back, and that is to get this family here.
“Yuliia yesterday was saying she’s ashamed we don’t want her here, but it seems like the Government doesn’t want them here.”
A Government spokesperson said: “We are moving as quickly as possible to ensure those fleeing Ukraine can find safety in the UK through the Ukraine Family Scheme and Homes for Ukraine.
“We have streamlined the process so valid passport holders do not have to attend in-person appointments before arriving in the UK, simplified our forms and boosted caseworker numbers, while ensuring vital security checks are carried out.
“We continue to speed up visa processing across both schemes.”
A friend of the Home Secretary insisted she had sustained improvement in issuing visas.
As of Thursday, 79,800 visa applications had been received and 40,900 had been issued.
The friend said: “It’s down to a lot of hard work from Priti to sort out a new system from scratch in record time – all without compromising on the checks that keep the people of the United Kingdom safe.
“Priti is that thing – a modern politician who spends little effort on spin and personal PR. She suffers for that over issues like these, but we need more like her.”
Tom Hunt, a member of the common sense group of Tory MPs, defended Ms Patel’s leadership.
He said: “[I] don’t think Priti has done anything wrong in the last few weeks in relation to the crisis.
“Frankly, I don’t think the Home Office is the most efficient government department – particularly the UK visas and immigration path of the Home Office.
“But I think that’s an issue with the department, and I think the Home Secretary does what she can with a difficult department.”
Another Tory MP said among colleagues “patience is wearing thin” with the Home Office, particularly concerning its record on stopping people coming illegally across the Channel in small boats.
The MP expected most Tories would support Ms Patel staying in post while the landmark Nationality and Borders Bill makes it journey to the statute book.
But they added: “If in a year’s time we’re still in the same place there will be no sympathy whatsoever. And I mean zero sympathy.”
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