Ukrainians can apply to pick fruit & veg says MP in deleted tweet
Daniel Clark www.devonlive.com
Torbay MP Kevin Foster has come under fire for a now-deleted tweet in which he said Ukrainians fleeing the Russian invasion can apply for jobs picking fruit and veg.
The Conservative MP was responding to Plymouth’s Labour MP Luke Pollard to explain that there are a ‘number of routes’ for refugees from the war.
The Tory government has come under pressure to allow Ukrainians refuge in the UK as the invading Russian forces surge toward Kyiv and other key objectives, with Prime Minister Boris Johnson stating that ‘of course’ the UK would help, the Mirror reports.
Labour had slammed the the Government’s refusal to relax visa restrictions for those seeking sanctuary in the UK was “immoral” at a time when the country was under fire, but Home Secretary Priti Patel has accussd the opposition of “appalling misinformation” and saying the claims were “simply untrue”.
Mr Foster, an immigration minister under Priti Patel, had tweeted on Saturday evening: “Hi Luke, as you are well aware there are a number of routes, not least our seasonal work scheme you will recall from your shadow DEFRA days, which Ukrainians can qualify for, alongside the family route for those with relatives here.”
The tweet was later deleted.
Kevin Foster’s now deleted tweet
Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper reacted by tweeting: “My God. People are fleeing war in Europe, the like we haven’t seen in generations, in search of swift sanctuary.
“Yet the immigration minister says the answer is they should put in an application to pick Britain’s fruit & veg.”
The tweet was widely criticised on social media, with Labour and Co-op MP for Leeds, Alex Sobel, replying: “Kevin this is beneath you. I hope you can apologise to the people of Ukraine fleeing for their lives and join the voices calling for the UK to match what our European friends are offering the oppressed masses of Ukraine.”
Scottish first minister Nicola Sturgeon responded to Mr Foster’s words, saying: “I hope we get clarity ASAP from Priti Patel that this is not a Home Office position.
“Migrant seasonal workers make a valued contribution to our economy – but this is not the route to the UK that we should expect those seeking refuge from war to rely on.”
Exeter MP Ben Bradshaw said: “Torbay MP & Tory Home Office Minister Kevin Foster seems to have lost the plot with this tweet. Saying Ukrainians fleeing Putin’s bombs should apply for the “seasonal workers scheme”, when other countries are welcoming the mainly women & children refugees with open arms.”
A Government spokesman said the priority was supporting British nationals and their dependents who are resident in Ukraine who wanted to get out.
“We are working around the clock to process visa applications and are processing many applications in a matter of hours,” the spokesman said.
Application fees had been temporarily waived for those eligible for entry by the family route while those who did not meet the requirements were being allowed entry for 12 months.
While the main UK visa application centre in Kyiv has been closed, the one in Lviv remained open for family members of British nationals in Ukraine. Staff had been “surged” to the centres in nearby countries, including Poland, Moldova, Romania and Hungary, to help those who made it across the border.
“Ukrainian nationals are able to apply for visas from these centres and we have announced concessions for Ukrainians currently in the UK, to extend or switch their visa,” the spokeswoman said.