We have all been shocked by the horrific scenes emanating out of Ukraine over the last two weeks. President Putin’s cowardly and illegal war surmounts to war crimes. His attacks against innocent civilians are depraved and we all mourn the loss of life brought about by Putin’s senseless aggression. The images of nurseries and hospitals after being bombed are tragic and deserve the utmost condemnation and urgent diplomatic action.
In the face of such evil, I have been overwhelmed by the strength, resolve and bravery of the Ukrainian people. In the fight against tyranny and autocracy they have been unbroken in their desire for freedom, democracy, and self-determination. Standing beside the people of Ukraine is more important now than ever before. I have also been deeply moved by the spirit and love shown across the UK, as communities in Huddersfield and beyond have mobilised to provide aid to those in need in Ukraine. I was proud to attend a fundraiser this weekend in Huddersfield.
The hardest possible sanctions must be taken against all those linked to Putin and against the Russian government’s interests, working in a coordinated and unified way with our allies to ensure the Putin regime faces the severest possible consequences. Russia must be cut out of the global economic system. The sanctions package announced by the Government contains measures that are good in principle, but the words must match the reality as we scrutinise the details, and I believe we must go further. There are some glaring omissions in the banking sanctions, and individual asset freeze designations against Putin’s oligarchs are moving too slowly. I believe there is more that can be done on export controls and to strengthen the Economic Crime Bill.
This sort of humanitarian crisis has not been seen since the Second World War. Over two million people have fled their homes. The British people have a long and proud history of providing refuge for those fleeing conflict and tyranny. The Kindertransport from 1938-1940 brought thousands of Jewish children to the UK from Nazi Germany, proving refuge and sanctuary. This is a legacy all of us can be proud of. Despite this, the Conservative’s response to the Ukrainian refugee crisis has been chaotic and disorganised. The current system for family visas is far too restrictive and there has been complete confusion with refugees being unable to process their applications in Calais. People need a simple and safe route to sanctuary right now and the UK must play its part. The Labour Party and I are calling for emergency protection visas for those fleeing Ukraine who want to reach the UK. It would lift normal visa conditions, other than biometrics and security checks, which can be done swiftly en-route. This would provide a quick, simple, and safe route for sanctuary for all who need it.
We need to send humanitarian aid to Ukraine as a prerogative, medical supplies, sanitary products, and other limited items are in dire shortage. I have made a cash donation to this cause, and I urge people to help in any way they can.
The illegal invasion of Ukraine is a global catastrophe. It is an act of unprovoked aggression against a democratic and peaceful nation. The days, weeks and months ahead will be dark, but I firmly believe that the Ukrainian people will live under the light of peace and freedom once again, under their own Government, free from the horrors of war.