Minister Cuts Interview Short After Clashing With Kay Burley Over Refugee Numbers

James Cleverly clashed with Sky’s Kay Burley when she pressed him over the exceptionally low number of Ukrainian refugees granted UK visas interview on Monday.

Kate Nicholson 

The Home Office has only granted 50 Ukrainians visas allowing them to come to the UK out of a total of 5,535 who have completed their applications as part of a new refugee scheme.

Defending the low numbers, the Europe minister claimed the UK would “of course be generous and open-hearted to Ukrainians, as you’d expect.

Burley then played a clip from a British man fleeing Ukraine from his family, who tried to get the UK from Calais but was stopped by border patrol. She said: “So we’re not making it easier at all are we?”

The minister just said he was not familiar with that individual case.

Burley claimed “it was not acceptable” to let only 50 people come to the UK, especially as a hundreds of thousands have fled to Poland.

It’s worth noting that the UN has declared the Russian invasion has triggered the fastest-growing refugee crisis since World War 2.

France’s interior minister has dubbed the UK’s policies towards Ukraine “inhuman”.

Even so, Cleverly said: “This situation has only occurred in the last couple of days. Of course the vast majority of people have just crossed the borders into neighbouring countries. And of course, what we are saying is that we are supporting them there.”

He said “we are also going to host the Ukrainians temporarily”.

He ignored Burley as she kept asking “when” while he promised to welcome Ukrainian refugees to the UK once the “processes” to house them are in place.

The Sky News anchor said: “These people literally are fleeing for their lives!”

Agitated, Cleverly replied: “Kay, if you’re going to ask me a question, let me answer it.”

Burley said: “We only have a limited amount of time, and you’re going off on a tangent.

“This is what my viewers want to know this morning, if I may!”

The minister continued defending the scheme and said: “The process has only just started. The vast majority of people are in the nations neighbouring Ukraine.”

She interrupted by saying, “minister, if I may”, adding again that she only had a limited amount of time to talk to him on the show.

“I’ve asked you several times and we’ve gone round the houses on that one,” Burley replied.

The Sky presenter continued asking about the UK’s support for Ukraine, but about two minutes before he was due to speak on his next interview, Cleverly said he had to leave – which ministers rarely do.

He said: “Kay, unfortunately I do have to go. I told your studio that I have to be clear for another interview I have at 7.20. I’m afraid I have to go now.”

“Make of that what you will,” Burley concluded after a pause, as the interview came to an abrupt end.

On Sunday, home secretary Priti Patel promised that she was “doing everything possible” to help the Ukrainians, despite facing intense criticism over the Home Office’s reluctance to accept more refugees.

In addition to the 5,535 who have finished their online applications, an extra 2,368 have booked a visa appointment and 11,750 people have started their applications but have yet not completed it.

The new scheme means anyone with family members in the UK can stay in Britain for up to the three years.

Despite citing security claims for her initial reluctance to drop the regular points-based system for Ukrainians fleeing the Russian war, Patel claimed at the weekend that this new system is “the first scheme in the world that’s up and running in this short period of time”.

The prime minister also claimed that approximately 200,000 Ukrainians could use this programme.

Cleverly maintained throughout his media round that this is the process needed to let people into the UK, but – like other ministers – suggested Ukrainians would prefer to settle in countries close to their home nation, rather than Britain.

He also told BBC Breakfast that we were “absolutely” doing enough to help people fleeing the warzone, blaming various “processes” for the delay in accepting them to Britain.

“We are a generous country and we will be in this circumstance,” he said.

The minister told BBC Radio 4′s Today that he was actually not certain how many Ukrainians had been granted to the UK.

Presenter Nick Robinson said it was a “source of shame” more people had not been accepted, but Cleverly maintained that a support system still needed to be set up before allowing more refugees into Britain.