As this SEJ went to press, the war in Ukraine was in its fourth week. The illegal invasion of Ukraine by Russia stunned the world, and the stories and images from the continuing assault on Ukrainian cities continue to shock on a daily basis.
The scale of the devastation being meted out on Ukraine, and the numbers of victims of the assault amongst the civilian population, are profoundly worrying and deeply upsetting.
More than three million refugees from the war have fled to neighbouring countries, with Poland alone welcoming almost two million of these. Romania has taken in almost half a million, with Hungary and Slovakia combining to take another half a million.
The response from these countries, in welcoming refugees with open arms, is commendable. Not amongst the wealthiest nations in the world, they have nevertheless done all that they possibly can to support and care for these innocent victims of war.
By contrast, the response from the UK has been disappointing. In the initial days following the invasion, the UK government did little to open the door to refugees fleeing danger from Ukraine. There was little in the way of compassion from government Ministers, with one even going so far as to suggest that refugees fleeing from war would be welcome in the UK if they wished to apply as seasonal workers to pick fruit.
Public opinion has forced a belated change in tack from the UK government, with more routes into the UK gradually being opened up for refugees from Ukraine. Yet, in comparison to most other countries in Europe, the UK’s processes for welcoming refugees remain overly bureaucratic and unhelpful to many people seeking refuge.
The devolved administrations, notably those in Scotland and Wales, have taken welcome steps to open up their countries by applying to be ‘super-sponsors’ for Ukrainian refugees. A government website where people can sign up to welcome Ukrainian refugees into their own homes was flooded with applications upon opening, with more than 130,000 sign-ups in the first week.
Yet, at the time of writing, figures indicate that fewer than 6,000 entry visas for people fleeing Ukraine have been approved. This is in appalling low number, especially when compared to other countries across Europe, and shames the UK – which remains amongst the most affluent countries in the world.
For its part, the EIS is doing what it can to offer support to the innocent victims of the war in Ukraine. While what the Institute can achieve by itself is clearly extremely limited, a significant donation has been made to the solidarity fund, established by Education International, in support of refugees. The March meeting of Council also passed a Motion, formalising EIS support for Ukraine, and calling on government to do more to support and welcome refugees. You can read more about Council’s discussions on Ukraine and find out more about Educational International’s work, and the solidarity fund.
Also in this edition of the SEJ
We highlight the EIS Education Manifesto for the local authority elections in May – you can read this in the special 4-page pullout in the centre of this edition. The Manifesto has been produced to support campaigning on key education issues at national and local level ahead of the elections. The Manifesto has been shared with all political parties, and EIS Local Associations are making use of bespoke versions of the Manifesto to press candidates on key local issues.