Carmichael challenges “let them pick fruit” minister on slow refugee response

Orkney and Shetland MP and Liberal Democrat Home Affairs spokesperson, Alistair Carmichael, has today pressed Home Office ministers to act faster and with more compassion for Ukrainian refugees fleeing Vladimir Putin’s attack on their country. Speaking during an Urgent Question in Parliament on the government’s response to the refugee crisis, Mr Carmichael criticised the minister’s suggestion that tight security controls were needed for refugees, despite other European states having welcomed thousands of Ukrainians in the past two weeks, and highlighted Kevin Foster’s past suggestion that refugees should come to the UK under “seasonal worker” visa schemes for fruit pickers.

Speaking in the House Mr Carmichael said:

“I think the House would be more impressed by the Minister’s security concerns had his initial response not been to tweet, “Let them pick fruit.” He speaks about complex scenarios. Is he not even a little embarrassed that the United Kingdom, uniquely in Europe, seems to be finding it too difficult to tackle those complex scenarios?”

Responding for the government, Kevin Foster MP said:

“Again, I would make the point that we have stepped up a system that will grant three years of leave, giving people more permanent status here in the UK and the security to move forward. As we have always said, there is a range of routes available. It should come as no surprise that those countries that are least popular with the Putin regime—ourselves, the US, Canada and Australia—are taking similar approaches.”

Reacting after the exchange, Mr Carmichael said:

“People across the UK want to welcome Ukrainian refugees with compassion and they want to act now. Unfortunately, our government, uniquely in Europe, seems to find this difficult. It is just not good enough for ministers to promise action to get a quick headline and then sit on their hands. We have had too many false dawns with the government on refugee support to take them at their word.

“The appointment of a Minister for Refugees today should be good news but he will only be effective if Priti Patel and the Home Office get out of his way and allow him to do the job. He has a few days to get the sponsorship scheme up and running and to prove his worth.”

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