Jewish community urges the government to honour its promises to Ukrainian refugees

More than 100 members of the Jewish community, including Liberal, Masorti and Reform rabbis, have signed an open letter to the Prime Minister, condemning the government’s treatment of Ukrainian refugees.


The letter, coordinated by the Jewish Council for Racial Equality (JCORE), was produced in response to news on Monday that the UK had only granted visas to 50 Ukrainian refugees.


While the number granted has now increased slightly to 300, the UK has so far provided safe passage to just 0.015% of the 2 million refugees displaced by the conflict.


Highlighting how many in the Jewish community are descendants of refugees who fled to the UK in search of sanctuary, the letter expresses dismay at the “government’s seeming inaction in response to those fleeing persecution and conflict today”.


It also criticizes the government’s Nationality and Borders Bill, which would criminalize Ukrainians and other refugees forced into taking dangerous, overland routes to safety in the UK, stating that this legislation “strongly negates our Jewish values”.


Following the Prime Minister’s promise a fortnight ago to “receive those who are fleeing in fear of persecution”[1] from Ukraine, signatories urge the government to remove cumbersome visa restrictions blocking Ukrainian refugees from entering the UK at Calais, and to grant clear routes to safety to the UK for Ukrainians without family members in this country.


With the Nationality and Borders Bill due back in the House of Commons later this month, it also calls for the government to scrap its clauses which would criminalize refugees.


Dr Edie Friedman, Executive Director of the Jewish Council for Racial Equality, said: “The heart-breaking scenes of refugees desperately attempting to escape Ukraine in search of safety are particularly resonant to our community.


We are therefore appalled that the government has acted so slowly in response to those displaced from Ukraine, which can only have increased the stress and anxiety of refugees seeking to reach sanctuary and family in this country. The Prime Minister must step up, and following the example of our European neighbours, waive visa requirements for Ukrainian refugees.


We also urge the government to tear up its appalling Nationality and Borders Bill: had this abhorrent legislation been in place at the time, it is likely that many Jewish refugees would have been unable to reach safety in the UK in the 20th century.”


The full text of the open letter can be found below:


Dear Prime Minister,


Re: 50 is not enough: Urgent action for Ukrainian refugees needed now


We in the Jewish community are watching with horror the dreadful scenes and humanitarian crisis in Ukraine, following Russia’s invasion.


Images of refugees desperately attempting to escape the country, in search of safety, are particularly resonant to us.


Many in our community are descendants of refugees who fled to the UK in search of sanctuary: we are appalled by the government’s seeming inaction in response to those fleeing persecution and conflict today.


It is deeply shameful that as of March 7th, only 50 Ukrainian refugees had been granted visas – we are horrified that around three times as many had been turned back at Calais and denied entry to the UK.


And we are also appalled that the government is continuing to push through the anti-refugee Nationality and Borders Bill.


This shocking legislation would criminalize Ukrainians, and other refugee groups, forced into taking dangerous, overland routes to safety in the UK. The bill strongly negates our Jewish values: its attacks on refugee rights are not in our name.


We urge you to take four crucial actions today:

  • Remove the cumbersome visa restrictions which have disgracefully seen Ukrainian refugees blocked from entering the UK at Calais.

  • Step up and grant clear routes to safety to the UK for Ukrainians without family members in this country, following the example of our European neighbours.

  • Scrap clauses in the Nationality and Borders Bill which would criminalize refugees.

  • Broaden refugee family reunion eligibility, so that all refugees can reunite with extended family members in the UK – as has rightly been granted to Ukrainians.

Two weeks ago, you pledged to the House of Commons that the UK would “receive those who are fleeing in fear of persecution” from Ukraine. Today, we urge you to honour this promise by taking the above steps.


Yours sincerely,


Dr Edie Friedman, Executive Director, the Jewish Council for Racial Equality (JCORE)

Bil Al Len Alden Carole Angier Helen Banks Adrienne Banks Chaya Bernstein Lila Bernstein-Newman David Bilchitz Jonathan Black Viv Bogen Alice Bondi Ceri Butler Mandy Carr Barbara Cohen Ilana Cravitz Patsy Cunningham Ann David Sara Dibb Brian Douieb Tiernan Douieb Anna Dyson Ros Edwards Colin Eimer Nader Fekri David Feldman Nina Fine Sheila Freedman Daniel Garay Nicole Gluckman Martin Golding Suzy Goodwin Jane Gordon Rabbi Jeremy Gordon Rivka Gottlieb Rebecca Graber Tami Greene Judith Gubbay Rebecca Heller Rachel Hermer Eve Hersov Freda Hooberman Deere Anthony Isaacs Anna Isaacs Shireen Isal Jean-Pierre Isal Sarah Isal Williamson Margaret Jacobi Ben Jacobs Anna Janik Ann Jungmann Simon Kaufman Phil Kelvin Maxine Klein Peter Korn Jack Kushner Tony Kushner Sam Kushner Naomi Layish Frances Lefford Jennifer Lennard Sam Levene Barbara Levy Tomer Levy John Lipetz Hannah Lovell Monica Lowenberg Simon Lynn Moshe Mankoff Alexandra May Chris Mohr Trevor Moross Margaret Owen Gail Pearce Cathy Peck Judy Plaut Niall Quinn Robert Reiner Julian Rogan Jane Rogers Pamela Rose Adam Rose Roberta Rosefield Ofra Rosenwasser Phillipa Rubins Barbara Saalfeld-Edwards Esther Saraga Rabbi Elli Sarah Eric Schneider Dr Malcolm Segall Professor Vic Seidler Julie Shames-Rogan Rebecca Sharkey Janet Solomons Bernard Spiegal Robert Symonds Roni Tabick Astra Temko Lesley Urbach Sarah Ward Rabbi Lee Wax Amanda Wilkins Jonathan Wittenberg Adam Zagoria-Moffet Ruvi Ziegler

[1] https://hansard.parliament.uk/commons/2022-02-22/debates/057FABBB-4F1C-4425-A304-4A168EC069EB/Ukraine