I know Richmond Park residents are deeply concerned about the situation in Ukraine. I wanted to update you on the key issues that are at the forefront of my mind regarding the unfolding situation.
However, before I do so, I want to ask that if you know anyone within Richmond Park constituency who is seeking to escape Ukraine themselves, or is trying to help a relative do so, please let me know urgently at email@example.com.
RESPONDING TO PUTIN'S FULL-SCALE INVASION
To begin, I want to make clear my horror at the decision by President Putin to launch a full-scale invasion of Ukraine. This is one of the darkest days for our country since the Second World War, and we must stand with the people of Ukraine unconditionally.
A terrible human tragedy is unfolding before our eyes, with Putin's troops advancing on the capital of Kyiv and other key sites in Ukraine. Putin's expansionist intentions are plain to see and he must be stopped in his tracks and turned back.
With thousands of casualties already reported, we must enforce the most punitive sanctions against the Russian Government. The world must isolate Putin and the barbarous regime he leads. We welcome the latest round of sanctions, but feel they do not sanction enough of Putin’s associates. We need wholesale asset freezes of all Kremlin-linked oligarchs in the UK, and we must begin the process of seizure.
The UK response must include an immediate end to the era of Russian state-backed interference in our country. Liberal Democrats stand ready to support a special extended session of Parliament to immediately pass the necessary legislation for this. The Government must also reverse its proposed troop cuts to the British army, and offer greater military support to our NATO allies in eastern Europe.
Regarding the role of the United Kingdom in accepting Ukrainian refugees, my stance is unequivocal. We must make an ambitious commitment to Ukrainians fleeing the invasion. The Government must not repeat the same mistakes they have made when they failed Afghan refugees with their inadequate scheme, which still sees many families trapped in small hotel rooms, waiting to be properly resettled and without the immigration status the Government promised
I have joined fellow Liberal Democrat MPs in writing to the Foreign Secretary and the Home Secretary, urging them to work with humanitarian agencies and Ukraine’s neighbours to provide accommodation and support to the civilians now fleeing Putin's troops. We are already seeing enormous queues of women and children trying to get out while they can, having said goodbye to husbands, fathers and sons who are staying behind to fight for Ukraine.
To ensure any effort is successful, it is vital that any resettlement scheme must be matched with sufficient funding for councils. Our local authorities are waiting to open their doors to Ukrainian refugees, but they cannot be expected to bear this burden alone. Our letter therefore calls for “a full five-year funding package for each and every person a council resettles."
The Government’s decision to only only allow Ukrainian refugees with immediate family settled in the UK falls far short of what is needed and will not help the vast majority of those currently fleeing war in Ukraine. The Government needs to follow the lead of our European neighbours and set up a simple, rapid scheme to resettle Ukrainian refugees in the UK. Moreover, this must include the withdrawal of the Nationality and Borders Bill – currently going through Parliament – which would criminalise Ukrainians and other refugees who come to the UK seeking asylum.
RUSSIAN DONATIONS TO THE CONSERVATIVE PARTY
I stand with my Liberal Democrat colleagues in demanding that Boris Johnson use the almost £2 million of Russian-linked donations received by the Conservative Party to support the people of Ukraine. This would send a powerful signal to Putin that the Conservatives are serious about no longer allowing themselves to be bankrolled by Russian money. It would also provide vital support to Ukrainians on the ground facing the threat of invasion and a sustained campaign of Russian disinformation.
If you want to assist the people of Ukraine with humanitarian aid, the International Red Cross has set up a Ukraine appeal. They are working with the Ukrainian Red Cross to provide food, water, clothing, shelter and medical care to displaced persons. You can see their Ukraine appeal page here.
If you specifically want to help children in Ukraine, you could direct your donation to UNICEF, who are also running a Ukraine relief campaign. More information on their work and how to donate can be found here.
Alternatively, the International Rescue Committee is working with Ukrainian refugees who have fled to Poland. If you want to help IRC with their work supporting Ukrainians who have crossed the border into Poland, please donate here.
If you want to give to Ukrainian organisations specifically, the Association of Ukrainians in Great Britain is sponsoring an appeal along with a number of Ukrainian churches and civic groups based here in the UK. They are working with accredited charities in Ukraine to provide emergency aid to those in need in the country. You can see their GoFundMe page here.
I will continue to keep you updated through my newsletter as the situation evolves.