The EU will take in Ukrainian refugees without asking them to apply for asylum first, it was announced tonight, as hundreds of thousands of terrified citizens continue to flee their homes amid the ongoing Russian invasion.
The decision was agreed unanimously between all countries in the 27-nation bloc on Sunday, following a meeting of its interior ministers.
The open-door-style policy will remain in place for up to three years in a bid to tackle what is fast becoming Europe’s worst humanitarian crisis in decades.
It comes as nearly 370,000 frightened Ukrainians have already fled the Vladimir Putin’s forces for neighbouring countries, with queues at the border with Poland stretching back more than eight miles.
But Britain is yet to commit to welcoming such refugees unconditionally, with Prime Minister Boris Johnson so far only allowing entry to those with settled families already living in the country.
It means scores of desperate Ukrainians who do not have a connection to the UK will still be denied refuge in Britain. When this was pointed out to Foreign Secretary Liz Truss this morning, she was asked if the policy would be changed.
She said: ‘We are looking urgently at what we can do. We’re working with European partners about how we support refugees who are leaving Ukraine. So, yes, is the answer.’
It comes as huddled masses of Ukrainian women and children escaping Russian bombs rode trains, cars, and ferries from cities including Lviv in the country’s west to Poland, Hungary, Slovakia, and Romania.
Loved ones have been torn apart in the biggest European conflict since the Second World War, as women said goodbye to their husbands after Ukraine‘s president Volodymyr Zelensky ordered men aged 18-60 to stay behind and fight Kremlin forces.
Families drove to Vysne Nemecke in Slovakia, while the line of vehicles at the Poland-Ukraine border stretched 8.7 miles, and those fleeing had to endure long waits in freezing temperatures overnight. Over 100,000 people have crossed into Poland alone, according to Polish officials.
Amid the rush to escape the bombs and tanks, there was also what looked like a trickle of brave men and women who want to head home to defend Ukraine or help others do so. At a border crossing in southern Poland, Associated Press journalists spoke to people in a line heading against the tide. They included a group of some 20 Ukrainian truck drivers who wanted to face combat.