UK could take up to 700,000 refugees fleeing Ukraine, senior Tory MP says

·Political Correspondent, Yahoo News UK
·4-min read
Ukrainian refugees arrive by bus from the Hungarian-Ukrainian border at Tiszabecs village, to their temporary camp in the local primary school on February 28, 2022. (Photo by Attila KISBENEDEK / AFP) (Photo by ATTILA KISBENEDEK/AFP via Getty Images)
A senior Conservative MP said the UK could take more than half a million Ukrainian refugees. (Getty)

The UK could take up to 700,000 Ukrainian refugees, a senior Conservative MP has said, amid warnings 7 million people could be displaced by the devastating war in eastern Europe.

Russian President Vladimir Putin launched an invasion of Ukraine last week, triggering a massive refugee crisis across the country that has seen hundreds of thousands of people forced to flee their homes.

On Sunday, the EU commissioner for crisis management warned the conflict risks displacing over seven million people - with the UN saying 18 million could be affected.

The British government has insisted a scheme for Ukrainians will enable up to 100,000 to come to the UK.

However, Home Secretary Priti Patel has come under intense political pressure from MPs across the Commons to do more after she ruled out a visa waiver for those fleeing the conflict over security concerns.

Labour has also called on Patel to be clearer about who is eligible for the existing scheme.

“The Home Secretary has just said she is announcing a bespoke humanitarian route but it’s extremely unclear from what she’s said what the details actually are or who it will apply to," shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper.

Read more: How to help Ukraine: 9 ways you can make a difference from the UK

UZHHOROD, UKRAINE - FEBRUARY 27, 2022 - A little girl holding a woman's hand clutches a doll at the Uzhhorod-Vysne Nemecke checkpoint on the Ukraine-Slovakia border, Zakarpattia Region, western Ukraine. (Photo credit should read SerhiiHudak/ Ukrinform/Future Publishing via Getty Images)
A little girl holding a woman's hand clutches a doll at the Uzhhorod-Vysne Nemecke checkpoint on the Ukraine-Slovakia border, Zakarpattia Region, western Ukraine. (Getty Images)
This general view shows the damaged local city hall of Kharkiv on March 1, 2022, destroyed as a result of Russian troop shelling. - The central square of Ukraine's second city, Kharkiv, was shelled by advancing Russian forces who hit the building of the local administration, regional governor Oleg Sinegubov said. Kharkiv, a largely Russian-speaking city near the Russian border, has a population of around 1.4 million. (Photo by Sergey BOBOK / AFP) (Photo by SERGEY BOBOK/AFP via Getty Images)
Damaged local city hall of Kharkiv on March 1, 2022, destroyed as a result of Russian troop shelling. Kharkiv, a largely Russian-speaking city near the Russian border, has a population of around 1.4 million. (Getty Images)

On Monday night senior Conservative MP, David Davis, told ITV's Peston that more than half a million refugees coming to the UK from Ukraine would be a "fair share".

"The best estimate so far, is there's going to be something like four million? I think it could be five or six," said Davis.

"Our fair share of that is a million maybe, yes. Might be 700,000... that sort of order.

"And what's going to be happening, I suspect, behind the scenes, is a lot of talking to other European countries and essentially dividing up the load - and that... I think, is perfectly reasonable."

The home secretary has insisted she is liaising with countries neighbouring Ukraine about the crisis and that more announcements will be made "in the next few days".

"We're working with the Ukrainian government, and also we're working with governments in the region to understand what they need, what kind of support the people of Ukraine need as well - in terms of leaving Ukraine, where they're going to go, and basically reuniting family members," Patel said.

Read more: Ukraine crisis: Russian advance on Kyiv 'makes little progress over 24 hours'

UZHHOROD, UKRAINE - FEBRUARY 27, 2022 - A woman holds a dog at the Uzhhorod-Vysne Nemecke checkpoint on the Ukraine-Slovakia border, Zakarpattia Region, western Ukraine. (Photo credit should read SerhiiHudak/ Ukrinform/Future Publishing via Getty Images)
A woman holds a dog at the Uzhhorod-Vysne Nemecke checkpoint on the Ukraine-Slovakia border, Zakarpattia Region, western Ukraine. (Getty Images)

The scale of the crisis has shone a spotlight on why the British government was unprepared to deal with the fallout of the invasion, particularly when British and American intelligence has warned for weeks that Russia was primed to attack.

Immigration minister, Kevin Foster, was criticised on Sunday after he suggested people fleeing the war could apply for fruit-picking visas.

"There are a number of routes not least our seasonal worker scheme you will recall from your Shadow DEFRA days, which Ukrainians can qualify for, alongside the family route for those with family here," he said.

Read more: How to help Ukraine: 5 charities you can support right now

The Ukrainian community in The Netherlands gathers outside of the House of Representatives building to protest against Putin and the war in Ukraine. Inside the Dutch parliament is discussing the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The Hague, on February 2022. (Photo by Romy Arroyo Fernandez/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
The Ukrainian community in The Netherlands gathers outside of the House of Representatives building to protest against Putin and the war in Ukraine (Getty Images)

A group of Conservative MPs have also submitted a letter to the government on Monday labelled "Britain cannot fail refugees in this crisis of war" calling for more action.

"This should not be business as usual, we need sincere and immediate support for Ukrainian people," it reads. "The United Kingdom cannot flag or fail, our message must be clear: Ukrainian victims of war seeking refuge are welcome."

At a press conference in Poland on Tuesday, Boris Johnson appeared to indicate that the UK would take in more refugees.

"We are extending the family scheme so that very considerable numbers would be eligible... You could be talking about a couple of hundred thousand, maybe more," he said.

"Additionally, we are going to have a humanitarian scheme and then a scheme by which UK companies and citizens can sponsor individual Ukrainians to come to the UK."

Watch: Ukraine invasion: Satellite images show 40-mile-long convoy of Russian vehicles closing in on Kyiv