Priti Patel Says Refugee Numbers Issued By Her Own Department Were 'Absolutely Inaccurate'

The home secretary has been criticised after it was reported that only 50 visas had been issued to Ukrainian refugees.
Home Secretary Priti Patel speaking to the media outside the Ukrainian embassy in London.
Home Secretary Priti Patel speaking to the media outside the Ukrainian embassy in London.
Yui Mok via PA Wire/PA Images

Figures issued by the Home Office showing that only 50 Ukrainian refugees had been given visas to come to the UK were “absolutely innacurate”, Priti Patel has said.

In an extraordinary development, the Home Secretary said the true figure will not be known until this evening.

Her comments came following intense criticism over the apparent failure of the UK’s refugee scheme to admit enough people fleeing war in their homeland.

Addressing MPs as she launched the Economic Crime Bill, which is aimed at cracking down on Russian oligarchs, the home secretary said: “It’s important for all colleagues in the house to know that the first quality assured figures on the Ukrainian families scheme will come this evening.

“The figures that are in the public are absolutely inaccurate and have not been assured by the Home Office, so I do just want to make that abundantly clear.”

She added: “Our scheme is the first of its kind in the world and we cannot measure it against any other countries.

“We have had already 14,000 people apply, we also have a sponsorship scheme that will be announced later on.”

The Home Office issued an update later on Monday saying 300 visas had been confirmed and 17,700 applications made.

Patel is also at odds with Boris Johnson after she appeared to suggest that a third refugee scheme, aimed at allowing more Ukrainians to arrive on humanitarian grounds, was being set up.

The government has already announced that Ukrainians in the UK will be able to bring family members from their home country.

In addition, British people and companies will be able to sponsor Ukrainian refugees.

But speaking to The Sun yesterday, the Home Secretary suggested the government was prepared to go further.

She said: “In response to the desperation I saw with my own eyes at the Polish border two days ago, I’m urgently escalating our response to the growing humanitarian crisis.

“I am now investigating the legal options to create a humanitarian route.

“This means anyone without ties to the UK fleeing the conflict in Ukraine will have a right to come to this nation.”

But the PM appeared to reject this idea while speaking during a visit to RAF Northolt, insisting the UK has “two very, very generous routes already” which could see “hundreds of thousands” of Ukrainians come to this country.

Meanwhile, Patel also rejected claims that the UK was not providing any support to refugees arriving at Calais and wanting to go on to the UK.

Pictures emerged on Twitter of signs, apparently in northern France, saying UK visas will not be provided there and advising people to apply online or travel to Paris or Brussels to make an application.

But Patel insisted there are British officials in Calais and “support on the ground”, telling the Commons: “It is absolutely right that we’ve already had people in Calais”, adding: “It is wrong to say we’re just turning people back – we’re absolutely not, we’re supporting those that have been coming to Calais.”

She warned that people-smuggling gangs are “roaming around Calais” and “human trafficking cases are now manifesting at the border”, adding: “It’s absolutely right that we have the right processes in place to check people and to safeguard people.”

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