The United Kingdom on Tuesday relaxed its immigration requirements for Ukrainians fleeing Russia’s invasion, after criticism it was not going far enough to accommodate refugees.
Home Secretary Priti Patel said some 100,000 Ukrainians could enter the country for 12 months as a result of changes to criteria for close family members.
“There is no limit on the numbers eligible,” she told parliament, adding that those arriving “will be able to work and access public funds”.
Measures relaxed include language requirements and salary thresholds and widening those eligible to grandparents, children over 18 and siblings of “any person settled in the UK”.
All applicants will still, however, have to pass security checks, she added.
London has faced calls to match an EU plan to allow Ukrainians with passports bearing biometric data to enter the bloc without a visa and stay for up to three years.
In response to the criticism, a junior minister in Patel’s department suggested Ukrainians could still apply for seasonal worker visas designed for fruit pickers.
He later deleted his tweet.
Newspaper reports have also highlighted several cases where Ukrainians without visas have been prevented from using Eurostar train services to get from Paris to London.
But Patel called the proposals a “very generous, expansive and unprecedented package” and ruled out demands for visa waivers, given that “Russian troops are seeking to infiltrate and merge with Ukrainian forces”.
“We have a collective duty to keep the British people safe. And this approach is based on the strongest security advice,” she added.
Patel also outlined plans for Ukrainians who do not have family ties to come to the UK by being sponsored by individuals, charities, businesses and communities.
Leave to remain would also be granted for 12 months and would have no limit on numbers, she added.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson suggested on a visit to Poland earlier on Tuesday that “more than 200,000” Ukrainians could be eligible as a result of the UK scheme.