Statement on Safe Passage for Ukrainian Refugees
Yesterday we sent this letter to the Home Secretary:
Dear Home Secretary,
World Jewish Relief has been working in Ukraine for almost 30 years, providing support to Jewish Holocaust Survivors, elderly individuals and those unemployed or underemployed. We have an extensive network of local partners across the country and are currently responding to their humanitarian needs wherever we can, assisting those both within and beyond the Jewish community.
The dramatic escalation of the conflict and resulting displacement of hundreds of thousands of people – some of them displaced for the second time in a decade – is a catastrophe. There is no doubt that this number is likely to increase further as families flee westwards to European borders to escape fighting and their threat to life.
We welcomed the Prime Minister’s remarks yesterday, committing to be “very generous” and call upon the British Government to urgently initiate a safe route to ensure Ukrainians’ fleeing can apply for a visa on humanitarian grounds so they can safely travel to the UK and be granted permission to stay and a Ukrainian resettlement scheme to allow for vulnerable Ukrainians the ability to seek safe sanctuary in the UK.
We would of course also like to offer World Jewish Relief’s expertise and experience to support such a programme. As you are well aware, World Jewish Relief, with funding from the Jewish community, AMIF and the Home Office, has been delivering tailored and intensive employment support to resettled refugees since April 2016. The Specialist Training and Employment Programme (STEP) is delivered now in 23 locations in the UK partnering with NGOs and local authorities and is achieving good employment outcomes. We are fortunate to also have the support of Britain’s Jewish community behind us in this endeavour.
Maurice Helfgott, Chair of Trustees
Paul Anticoni, Chief Executive
World Jewish Relief unequivocally condemns Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, an unprovoked and illegal attack that has already shattered the lives of Ukraine’s 44 million civilians. We have worked in Ukraine since 1991 and this past year reached 13,000 of the country’s most vulnerable older people, people with disabilities, and unemployed and underemployed people with lifesaving assistance.
We are amazed by the Jewish community’s response to this crisis: generous donations to our Ukraine Crisis Appeal which is meeting the urgent humanitarian needs of the most vulnerable; countless calls into the office from people asking what they can do to help; offers of accommodation and assistance to any Ukrainians who arrive in the UK as refugees.
Thanks to this kindness our 29 partners are already responding on the ground in Ukraine, where the majority of displaced Ukrainians have fled to different parts of the country, and in neighbouring Moldova, Poland and Transnistria, where our partners are taking in refugees, and we are providing food, water, PPE and shelter to families in need.
Whilst the most urgent humanitarian need exists in the region itself, we in the UK cannot shirk our moral responsibility towards people seeking refuge here. We must embrace our historic commitment to offering a safe haven to people fleeing conflict and danger. We have written to the Home Secretary urging the Government to relax visa rules for Ukrainians fleeing the invasion, prioritising those most in need.
We also offered our expertise in providing language and employment support, which we have developed over 6 years of assisting refugees from Syria, Iraq and elsewhere, to incoming Ukrainians. We are ready to lead on this once again.