Conservative party MP Sir Roger Gale called for Home Secretary Priti Patel to resign after she falsely claimed the UK government had set up visa application centres in Calais.
The UK has already been criticised for being slow off the mark in matters relating to helping refugees from Ukraine, with French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin accusing the UK government of a “lack of humanity”.
Patel previously said in response to Darmanin’s criticism:
“I have staff in Calais to provide support to Ukrainian families that have left Ukraine to come to the United Kingdom. It is wrong and it is inaccurate to say that we are not providing support on the ground. We are.”
But this appears to be untrue, with Foreign Secretary Liz Truss later stating that the visa centre was to be set up in Lille, 70 miles from Calais. Roger Gale heavily criticised Patel:
“That was untrue and under any normal administration that in itself would be a resignation [issue]. … There was no visa application centre ‘en-route to Calais’ and refugees from the war in Ukraine are being sent back to Paris or Brussels to obtain visas. … There is no visa centre at Lille yet, in spite of the fact that the foreign secretary earlier this morning said that there was.”
While other Conservative MPs were less vocal with their criticism, there does appear to be a consensus within parliament that the government has acted far too slowly with respect to issuing visas.
Responding to the governments claims that they were responding to the situation “at pace”, Conservative MP Caroline Nokes retorted that “Snails also move at ‘pace'”.
The claims by the Home Secretary had led around 300 Ukrainian refugees attempting to join family and friends in the UK ending up stuck in Calais and told that they travel elsewhere to aquire a visa.
The Home Office has said that the decision not to set up a visa centre in Calais is in order to prevent Ukrainian refugees from being taken advantage of by people smugglers.
The UK government has also attempted to set up visa centres in Poland, but these too have been accused of being too slow and ineffective. One refugee attempting to acquire a visa in Poland told i that as many as 100 people had been booked for the same appointment at the visa centre – meanwhile, the centre has been criticised for only being able to process around 100 refugees a day, a minuscule figure compared to the over 2 million Ukrainians who have now fled their home country.