Immigration minister criticised for suggesting fleeing Ukrainians could apply to be UK fruit pickers

In a now-deleted tweet, immigration minister Kevin Foster says Ukrainians could qualify for the seasonal worker scheme - where people can come to the UK for up to six months to work in jobs such as fruit picking - or apply for a family visa if they already have a relative in Britain.



Immigration minister Kevin Foster has been criticised after he suggested Ukrainians fleeing war should apply for work visas to come to the UK.


In a now-deleted Twitter post, the Conservative MP said Ukrainians could qualify for the seasonal worker scheme - where people can come to the UK for up to six months to work in jobs such as fruit and vegetable picking - or apply for a family visa if they already have a relative in Britain.


Mr Foster posted his message as part of a row about whether the government is still applying normal visa restrictions to those trying to escape the Russian forces attacking Ukraine.


His deleted tweet was in response to Labour's shadow armed forces minister Luke Pollard, who told the government that Britain had a "moral duty" to "urgently sort out a simple sanctuary route to the UK for all who need it".


Posting a screenshot of Mr Foster's now-deleted reply, Mr Pollard posted on Twitter: "Yesterday I pressed ministers on opening safe routes to sanctuary in Britain for those fleeing war in Ukraine.


"The immigration minister replied suggesting visas to pick fruit on British farms. I like Kevin but this was painfully unaware and unkind. We need safe routes open now."


Labour's shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper said it was "right" that Mr Foster had deleted his tweet, but said she was still waiting for answers from Home Secretary Priti Patel over what was being done to assist Ukrainians.


Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon also called for "clarity" from Ms Patel, adding: "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."


Alistair Carmichael, the Liberal Democrats' home affairs spokesperson, also joined the criticism of Mr Foster.


"Ukrainians are queuing for miles to escape Putin's war machine," he said. "For the Home Office to tell them to apply for visas as if they are looking for work or going on a gap year is completely wrong."


As well as deleting his initial tweet, Mr Foster sent a further reply to Mr Pollard to state the seasonal worker scheme was "just one of several routes and we will do more as the PM has made clear".


Source: Sky News