Kevin Foster, the immigration minister sent to face the wrath of MPs, said the pop-up centre had to be away from Calais because of the danger of the port city becoming a “choke point” for refugees and the risk from people-smuggling gangs preying on the Ukrainians.
He defended the need for security and biometric tests – which include fingerprints and photographs of any applicant aged over five – because of fears of infiltration of the refugees by Russian agents or extremists and attempts by illegal migrants to use the crisis as cover to enter the UK.
Citing the poison attack by Russian agents in Salisbury, Mr Foster told MPs: “Sadly, we are already seeing people presenting at Calais with false documents claiming to be Ukrainian.
“With incidents like Salisbury still in our minds, the Government will not take chances with the security of this country and our people. Our friends in the United States, Canada and Australia are rightly taking the same approach.”
‘More radical response needed’
But Steve Brine, the former Tory minister, said: “So much about this doesn’t feel right. All of this is far too robotic and…there is very little Christian compassion being shown at the moment. Surely we are past the UK saying we are going to have a generous scheme? It’s time to deliver a generous scheme.”
Damian Green, the former home office minister, questioned why biometric checks could not be done once the refugees had arrived in the UK, saying the Home Office was trying to tweak the existing immigration system rather than recognise that it was a unique situation.
He said it was taking “too long” to set up the family scheme and criticised the “sheer confusion” of sending refugees in Calais to Lille to apply. “There is war in Europe – that has not been seen for decades – and actually it requires a more radical response,” he said.