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11 March 2022

The West must do more to resettle refugees fleeing Ukraine

The US and its partners should use this moment to reassess their policies towards refugees and asylum seekers.

By Emily Tamkin

The Western world – the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom and the European Union – has united in support of Ukraine. These governments are providing hundreds of millions of pounds in humanitarian and military aid. They have also managed to work largely in concert in putting sanctions on Russia to make it more difficult for Vladimir Putin to finance his war.

But while there has been close cooperation on the military and economic front, one area stands out as lacking collaboration and limited ambition: refugee resettlement.

This is not to say that many people have not gone out of their way to help Ukrainian refugees: they have. Individuals in Ukraine’s neighbouring countries and around the world have opened their homes and lives to people fleeing the war.

But more than two million people have fled Ukraine in just over two weeks. This war will cause the greatest displacement of people in Europe since the Second World War. It is not enough to depend on the kindness of strangers. All Nato countries should be working together to help resettle refugees.

The countries that have draconian immigration policies currently in place should rethink and replace them. One Ukrainian family was allowed into the US on 10 March after being stopped at the US-Mexico border a day earlier; they should not have been stopped in the first place, and Ukrainian families and individuals who continue to come should be let in, too. On 8 March, the UK had, by its own admission, issued just 500 visas to Ukrainians. The UK government has said that a streamlined system for Ukrainian refugees will be put in place next week. 

The US and its allies and partners should also use this moment to reassess their policies towards refugees and asylum seekers more broadly. The US granted temporary protection to thousands of Ukrainians already in the country. This means they can remain in the US without fear of deportation. It is a recognition of the fact that people have an inherent right to exist safely, without fear of war, and that it is wrong to deport them back to war zones or violence. If the US can recognise this for Ukrainians, it can recognise it for other vulnerable populations, too.

[See also: The Conservatives’ disregard for Ukrainian refugees is shameful]

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