Deputy Gavin St. Pier wants politicians in senior roles to provide more leadership and clarity about their position on offering refuge to Ukrainians fleeing the war in their country.
The States have confirmed that Guernsey is joining a fast-track visa scheme introduced by the UK Government for people leaving Ukraine. But to qualify to come to the Bailiwick, the person must be a close family member of someone already living here.
Initially, the definition of family member used by the UK Government – and replicated in Guernsey – included only spouses, unmarried partners of at least two years, parents or their children if one is under 18 and adult relatives who are also carers. The UK Government – and subsequently the States – then extended the definition to include parents, grandparents, children over 18 and siblings.
In Jersey, the States’ Assembly has backed proposals to try to go further and work with the UK Government on extending the range of Ukrainians who could legally seek refuge in Jersey. The politician who led the proposal in Jersey said she was seeking “a Jersey solution for Jersey residents and their families”. Her proposal was supported unanimously in the Assembly.
Deputy St. Pier thinks States’ leaders in Guernsey need to be similarly clear in articulating the Bailiwick’s intentions.
Pictured: Ukrainians fleeing the war which has erupted in their country following days of aerial and ground attacks by Russian forces.
“There are many people who would willingly throw their homes open to house refugees so I think it is time for our government to provide a clear articulation of what it is actually seeking from the UK in its discussions with them,” said Deputy St. Pier.
“Of course, I appreciate there are limitations on our room for manoeuvre given the common travel area and the UK's responsibility for our international affairs.
“But each time there is a refugee crisis, we seem to say we want to help, but actually our ambition is limited to being in lockstep with the UK, which in practice means being a few steps behind.
“If that is the case, let's be honest about it and say so. But if we really do want to do more, then let's be clear about that too.
“It may be that the UK will accommodate our greater ambition if we can be clear what it is we are willing to do to help.”
Pictured: The Policy & Resources Committee, for which Deputy Jonathan Le Tocq (left) leads on external relations, and the Committee for Home Affairs, of which Deputy Rob Prow (right) is President, are both involved in the island's response to the crisis of refugees fleeing war in Ukraine.
The States of Guernsey provided Express with the following comment: "The States are following the UK’s lead in response to the war in Ukraine.
"Guernsey is...aligned with the UK on the response to the movement of refugees fleeing the war in Ukraine. This is due to the close constitutional ties with the UK through the British Crown, including in respect of immigration with our longstanding membership of the Common Travel Area.
"The UK Government has announced a change to the rules to provide free visa applications for members of the extended family of Ukrainians settled in the UK. This applies across all the Crown Dependencies. The same policy will apply for extended family members of Ukrainian nationals that have settled in the Bailiwick. As the UK develop this policy, we will automatically consider any future variations with a view to adopting.
"Should the UK consider any further extension to the Ukrainian humanitarian routes for refugees without close family links as the situation develops, the Bailiwick’s participation and how this might be managed and supported will be a matter to be considered by the States of Deliberation at that stage."
Pictured: The statement provided to Express by the States of Guernsey this afternoon suggested that extending rules on Ukrainian refugees entering the island to include people who are not close family members of those living here already would need to be considered by the States' Assembly.
Deputy St. Pier is, however, congratulating the Committee on its pledge of donating £500,000 “to support the people of Ukraine” as they continue to battle Russia’s invasion of their country.
“I welcome the swift response to demands for government financial support to this crisis. We are in a position to respond and it's absolutely right that we do so,” said Deputy St. Pier.
“This is an existential crisis not only for Ukraine but for peace in Europe. We must be ready and willing to do more as events develop."
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